Fri, 24 Jan 2020

Boks won't underestimate Folau-less Wallabies

17 Jul 2019, 22:12 GMT+10

Johannesburg - The absence of Wallaby 'bad boy' Israel Folau may bring a different character to Saturday's Rugby Championship match with the Springboks, but the Boks certainly won't be underestimating the Australian team.

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick told that while Folau had been the kingpin on attack and the most dangerous player over the past few years to don a Wallaby jersey, his absence didn't mean that the attacking options for Michael Cheika's side were anything less potent.

Folau's contract was terminated by the Australian Rugby Union over social media posts and the Wallabies will look to replace him this weekend in the first Test since the storm erupted.

But Stick pointed out the experience the Wallabies lost with Folau they have since regained with a player like James O'Connor, who was flown to Johannesburg to join the camp and is expected to play this weekend.

"A game between the Springboks and Wallabies is always a big Test match, especially in the Rugby Championship. It is always going to be a tough game," Stick said.

"It is sad not to have Folau there because he is a special player in their side, but we are not going to underestimate anyone, whoever takes over that role will be good and I see that James O'Connor - one of their most experienced players - is there. Looking at the options they have around that position, they have some great players who can fit into that position. It will always be a great challenge to play against the Wallabies."

The Boks have some questions of their own when it comes to Frans Steyn. As one of the most talented players ever to wear the Green and Gold, it is unclear exactly what role he will play in the Bok squad.

His versatility and unpredictability are an asset and at times a bit of a curse for Steyn, who has slotted into the Bok squad and now will compete for probably a place at fullback given the make-up of the squad.

And with the possibility of another World Cup in his future, the talented Montpellier veteran will also have a chance of proving himself again to the nation, especially since many of his performances in France would have gone unnoticed by the local crowd.

"The same question being asked of Steyn now is the same question that has been asked since 2007, because he is just a special rugby player. He is a utility back, he can fit in at flyhalf, centre or fullback, he is just a natural footballer.

"It is good to have him in the squad, he has 12 years of experience and he is still looking good. He looks like a 21-year-old. We're happy to have him in the squad, he brings a lot of experience into that backline.

"It took him less than a week to fit into the squad."

So while there may be no Folau to contend with, the experienced O'Connor will bring nostalgia and interest to the game.

The Boks, with Steyn, have their own questions that will be answered this weekend.

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