AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Australia lock Dan Vickerman was stumped when was asked to nominate the difference between the forward packs of New Zealand and South Africa.
"They both have a similar approach, they pride themselves on physicality and commitment, but different aspects of their games are hard to pinpoint and give an exact answer (to)," the 62-test veteran Vickerman said at the team hotel Tuesday.
That answer didn't offer any relief for the Wallabies, who were roughed up by the Springboks last weekend, but somehow prevailed 11-9 in the World Cup quarterfinals, and expect to accumulate new bruises when they face New Zealand on Sunday in the semifinals.
The entire Australia team, not just the forwards, came off second best in almost every category against South Africa, and as scrumhalf Will Genia pointed out, "If you look at the stats alone, we should have been beaten by 50-nil."
The great Victor Matfield gave one last lesson in the lineouts before retiring by helping the Springboks steal five throw-ins. Vickerman admitted the Wallabies' lineout needed fixing, and fast.
"(All Blacks locks) Ali Williams and Sam Whitelock are astute operators, and Kieran Read's a world-class lineout jumper," he said. "They have performed for a number of seasons together, so we've got to prepare well and focus on what's coming, otherwise it's going to be a tough day at the office.
"They have a fantastic scrum, great lineout, they're physical and efficient all over the park," Vickerman said. "Their forwards played well on the weekend, some of the ball-carrying was outstanding. Jerome Kaino's playing good rugby and Read is a proven performer — and the locks, I need only say Brad Thorn.
Vickerman said while he and his teammates enjoyed their win over South Africa, New Zealand posed a bigger threat.
"They're the top side in the world, they're playing on home soil and they're a formidable opponent wherever they're playing," he said. "We enjoyed last weekend's game, it was a good win and it was a fantastic team effort. But if we're not careful, the All Blacks will put us to the sword. So we've got to put ourselves in position to play 80 minutes on Sunday."
To that end, the Wallabies trained in the pool on Monday and Tuesday to get over aches and pains, and will start outdoor practice from Wednesday.
Fullback Kurtley Beale remained the only doubtful starter because of a mild hamstring strain, while prop Sekope Kepu's ankle was mending and center Pat McCabe's shoulder is expected to be OK.
Losing Beale would be "massive," said midfielder Adam Ashley-Cooper, who added he had his fingers crossed for him.
Ashley-Cooper couldn't recall touching the ball once in attack during Sunday's match, and maybe only once while making a tackle, and quipped, "It probably doesn't look too good on the stats sheet."
This weekend, if selected again, he said, "I'd like to see the ball at least once."
"The way the All Blacks play, there's going to be some expansive football, a lot of ball-in-hand stuff," he said. "It's going to be an exciting spectacle."
Vickerman will also be expected to start in his 15th test against New Zealand. He's enjoyed only four wins against the All Blacks, though, and none of them in New Zealand.
He is likely to keep Nathan Sharpe out of the run-on side, meaning the veteran lock will have to come off the bench to appear in his 100th test. Vickerman said he's been lucky to return from two seasons in Britain and regain a place in the Wallabies at Sharpe's expense.
"Sharpie's been great on and off the field," Vickerman said. "However we all fit in, we're a team."