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Springbok artillery ready to fire in season opener

South Africa's Tri-Nations opener against Australia this weekend is a vital part of the preparations for...

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South Africa's Tri-Nations

opener against Australia this weekend is a vital part of the

preparations for their World Cup defence even if their team is

much-weakened by injury, skipper John Smit said on Friday.

More than 20 frontline Springboks were left back in South

Africa for the world champions' first two tests of the season

but Smit said there was no lessening of the standards expected

from the men in green and gold.

"I'm looking for a win, that's why we're here," the

33-year-old hooker told a news conference on Friday.

"We don't really have the opportunity for any warm-up games

or finding our feet or getting any combinations going. There's

four games before the World Cup.

"It's important to get some kind of momentum, some kind of

confidence, make sure that the combinations you are playing are

functioning ...

"There's a lot at stake. And hopefully the one's that have

the chance in the first couple of games can make those

(selection) decisions harder for the coaches."

ARTILLERY

The Springboks sent similarly weakened teams overseas in the

2007 Tri-Nations before going on to win rugby's biggest prize

later in the year.

"I'm hoping that there will be similarities between the two

World Cups but there are many different things we will have to

replicate to win it again," he said.

Smit, who will win his 103rd cap this weekend, said he had

been one of the players left behind in 2007 and it had made for

sometimes uncomfortable viewing.

"I think back four years ago and we were sitting in Schalk

Burger's wine farm and we went up 17-0 ahead and it was a very

quiet Braai," he added.

With the rain still teeming down outside the team hotel,

Smit was expecting a wet surface at the Olympic Stadium on

Saturday evening.

"We'll see which team has got an artillery that is suited to

this weather," he added. "I'm hoping it will advantage us but

we'll have to see how both team adapt to the conditions."

One significant weapon in the South African armoury is the

boot of flyhalf Morne Steyn, whose reliability as a place kicker

could be a key factor in a tight game.

"He's kicked some really crucial goals for us in the last

couple of seasons so I'm pretty sure the Wallabies will realise

he's a pretty big threat there when it come to kicking three

points," said Smit.

"I think discipline will be pretty crucial to both sides but

when there's kicks that need to go over, he's pretty capable."

Coralling the Wallabies halfback pairing of Will Genia and

Quade Cooper, restored to the starting line-up after last week's

upset at the hands of Samoa, would be an important part of

stopping the Australians, he said.

"A lot of it will be composure from a team that probably

doesn't have as much experience as they've had over the years

... from turnover ball they're really dangerous so we'll have to

limit that as much as possible."

Smit will pack down with two debutant props in the front row

and laughed off suggestions that they would be targeting their

Wallaby counterparts in what is traditionally an area of

strength for the South Africans and weakness for the home side.

"At the beginning of the week, I was answering questions

about whether they'd be targeting us so I suppose we'll each be

targeting each other," he said.

Timeline

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