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Rugby Championship: Acid test for Eddie Jones’ Australia in Pretoria

Despite having a strong recent record in this fixture, Eddie Jones’ Australia have a tough first outing of the 2023 Rugby Championship as they take on South Africa in Pretoria.

With the 2023 World Cup looming later this year, the spotlight is firmly on how the Wallabies are shaping up before the major tournament on French soil.

A win over the reigning world champions South Africa in their own backyard would be a statement victory for Jones’ side but it certainly won’t be easy against a Springbok side who will have aspirations to defend their world title in France this year.

WhatSouth Africa v Australia
WhereLoftus Versfeld, Pretoria
When17:05 (AEST), Saturday 8th July 2023
How to watchStan Sport & Channel 9
OddsSouth Africa 1.28, Australia 3.75

Jones with a point to prove

After losing his job as England head coach, Jones might secretly feel like he has a point to prove on his return to the Australia job.

A poor run of results with the Red Rose saw his time at Twickenham brought an abrupt end, even with the 2023 World Cup in sight.

An Eddie Jones with a point to prove is a dangerous adversary and that should play into the Wallabies’ hands as they prepare for a tough Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks.

Few will give Australia much of a chance in Pretoria and that’s how Jones will be talking it up ahead of the trip to Loftus Versfeld.

Many of these Wallabies players can look back on recent successes against the Boks, with Australia winning three of their last four meetings against South Africa.

However, those wins have been back in Australia and that’s the reason why the Wallabies are the 3.75 underdogs heading into Saturday’s showdown in Pretoria. 

Vermeulen to lead from the front

In place of the injured Siya Kolisi, it will be Duane Vermeulen who will skipper the Springboks against the Wallabies this weekend.

Kolisi is still recovering from a serious knee injury but the hope in the South Africa camp is that their talismanic leader will still be available for the World Cup.

Fellow experienced players Handre Pollard and Eben Etzebeth are also sidelined due to injury, as is scum-half Jaden Hendrikse.

That will give other players a chance to impress from the off, with the likes of Manue Libbok and Cobus Reinach earning starts in the halfbacks.

Australia can challenge much-changed Boks

There are no less than nine changes to this South Africa side from the one that beat England convincingly in November and Australia will be looking to make the most of that unsettled lineup.

Looking at the Line market, the Wallabies are 1.90 to come out on top with a +9 headstart. 

Australia look capable of falling on the right side of the handicap as Jones’ side look to make a positive start to an important block of fixtures before the highly-anticipated World Cup.

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