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August 5, 2009

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Wallabies not out to con referees, insists Sharpe

WALLABY lock forward Nathan Sharpe has dismissed suggestions from South Africa coach Peter de Villiers that Australia try and con referees into awarding them penalties at scrum time.

The Springboks play Australia in a Tri-Nations test in Cape Town on Saturday and De Villiers said the mindset of the Wallabies was to target the "grey areas", put doubt in the mind of the referee and then let him decide the 50/50 calls.

"It's a brilliant tactic if you can get it right," De Villiers said.

Sharpe, capped 77 times by the Wallabies, said no team in world rugby would deliberately pull down the scrum and leave it up to chance.

"That would just be too great a risk," Sharpe told reporters yesterday. "We conceded a few penalties at scrum time against the All Blacks in Auckland (Australia lost 16-22) and that didn't work out too well for us. Discipline is paramount at the set-piece."

Sharpe said the Wallabies had spent plenty of time thinking about their defeat in Auckland, their only match so far in this year's Tri-Nations.

"Three weeks is a long time to stew on a performance you're not happy about and the whole squad is ready to step up. The way the Springboks play - looking for field position and kicking goals - means you can all of a sudden find yourself back in your own 22 and under pressure if your mind's not totally on the job," he said.

Unchanged line-up

South Africa meanwhile named an unchanged starting line-up with flyhalf Ruan Pienaar the only change on the bench. Pienaar missed the 31-19 win over New Zealand in Durban on Saturday with an ankle strain and his replacement, Morne Steyn, scored all of South Africa's points to set a record as the leading scorer in a Tri-Nations match.

The 25-year-old Pienaar, who has also played scrumhalf, fullback and wing for the Springboks, replaces center Wynand Olivier on the bench.

"If the players conduct themselves in the manner they have recently, then it is always easy choosing the team," De Villiers said.

"Ruan has always been part of our plans and I still believe he is a top-class player.

"But I will do an injustice if I bring him straight back in. We now have a situation in the team where if you are injured and lose your spot, it is hard to work your way back."

The Springboks lost 15-27 to the Wallabies in August last year before exacting their revenge a week later by routing their opponents 53-8 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. De Villiers refuted suggestions the Wallabies would start as underdogs on Saturday.

"I believe Australia have the quality to beat us, they beat us last year in Durban and I can never forget that because I was booed," he said.

"It wouldn't have taken that long for the scars of Ellis Park to heal and this game we will start at zero, nothing that's happened in the past can help us."


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