Michael Cheika has challenged the Wallabies to produce the mental strength required to smash their hoodoo on South Africa’s Highveld.
Australia has won just three Test matches in the high-altitude cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein – and only one in the last 54 years.
But Cheika reckons their poor record isn’t down to the physical challenges of playing 1500m above sea level.
“I don’t know, I just think it might be in our head,” Cheika said at Sydney Airport on Saturday as the team departed for next weekend’s clash with the Springboks in Bloemfontein.
“You’ve just got to go there and do your best.
“For us, it’s just about this group of players getting a bit smarter, playing a bit more consistently. Then we’ll see where we land.
“This one in particular … It’s been a while since we’ve won there and, to be honest, we haven’t accumulated a whole lot of wins over there, full stop.
“And if we want to take stepping stones to be a better team, we’ve got to be able to be mentally strong enough.”
The Wallabies sit third in the Rugby Championship and are unbeaten in their last two games, following a 23-23 draw with South Africa in Perth and a 45-20 triumph over Argentina in Canberra.
But they are bracing for a stinging response from the Springboks, who are coming off a 57-0 belting against the All Blacks – the team’s worst defeat in history.
Cheika doesn’t think his counterpart Alister Coetzee will swing the selection axe in response.
“I think they’ll stay solid. I can’t see them making a lot of changes,” he said.
“They’ve had a good run until last weekend so I can’t believe they’d be making changes too swiftly.”
Adam Coleman (rib) is the only fitness worry in the 32-man Wallabies squad, with Cheika saying the second-row enforcer will be monitored closely.
The team will set up camp in Johannesburg before moving operations to Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon. The Wallabies complete their two-week tour with a clash with the Pumas in Mendoza in a fortnight.