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Aussies ready to ‘lift their intensity’

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With the preliminaries against Wales and Fiji out of the way, Australia’s World Cup preparations begin in earnest with Saturday’s Tri-Nations opener against South Africa in Cape Town.

Speaking after the 49-0 whitewash of Fiji in Perth at the weekend, veteran Wallaby fly-half Stephen Larkham said the Cape Town Test was the signal for the Australians to lift their intensity.

After successive wins over the Welsh, the Wallabies made it three-from-three in 2007 with a workmanlike win over the Fijians, but they are under no illusions of the enormity of the task ahead of them in the Tri-Nations clash.

Having experimented with his line-up in the first three Tests of the season, Wallabies coach John Connolly has declared his intention to pick a full strength side for Saturday’s game.

The Australians on Sunday cut seven players from their 25-man squad for the clash with the Springboks, with six Wallabies already in South Africa and the remainder of team joining them on Monday morning.

Larkham made it clear that the Australians are ready to make the step up.

“It is going to be a massive challenge for us and a very important stepping stone for us towards the World Cup,” he said.

“Whilst the emphasis is certainly on winning the World Cup, we certainly need to have good form going into the World Cup and we need to have a little bit of confidence against sides we are potentially going to meet.

“There is a good chance we will play them, and to get a psychological advantage out of the Tri-Nations would be a bonus for either side.

“We have made improvements over the past couple of weeks… next week is obviously going to be a our biggest Test of the year.”

Springbok rugby is buoyant after the Super 14 season, which was won by a South African side for the first time, while the national team has trounced a makeshift England team twice and Samoa in recent weeks.

Fellow Wallabies veteran George Gregan has seen plenty of the Springboks over the years and rates the current outfit as the one of the best he’s encountered.

“It is definitely the most confident Springbok side and the most balanced Springbok side I have seen going into a Tri-Nations, on the back of two of the teams playing in a Super 14 final, and it was a great final,” the scrum-half said.

“They will be buoyed by that, and that has flowed into the Springbok rugby. They are going in with a lot of confidence, and they did a number on the English. So we have got them on the top of their game.”

SAPA-AFP 365 Digital

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