Rugby World Cup: Ioane recovers for Springbok mission

By Dylan Cleaver

Springboks v Australia
Wellington, 6pm Sunday
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)

Digby Ioane has given himself a big thumbs-up for his return to the Australian side.

He might have done it with his right thumb, rather than the troublesome left, but the message was clear all the same: he's ready and can't wait to get back into it.

The 26-year-old winger is a dangerous runner from broken play and forms a third of world rugby's most feared backfield along with Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor. However, he has not been sighted since their opening match against Italy after breaking his left thumb during an innocuous-looking tackle.

"It's 100 per cent," Ioane said of his much-scrutinised digit. "I've been doing full training this week so I'm there for selection. I'm prepared, I'm just ready to play."

Australia meet South Africa at the Cake Tin on Sunday evening in arguably the most anticipated quarter-final match in World Cup history.

Both teams suffered significant injuries as they negotiated their way through pool play.

Australia's dressing room at times resembled a mobile surgical unit as Ioane, Pat McCabe, Rob Horne, David Pocock, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Wycliff Palu, Beale, Drew Mitchell and Anthony Fainga'a spent time on the sidelines with various wounds. Palu and Mitchell have since returned home.

It is the three-quarters who have been hit most acutely, with big loose forward Radike Samo pressed into service on the wing, first as a replacement in their match against the USA, then as a starter against Russia.

"He's been a big hit on the wing, I gave him no tips," Ioane said.

The Queensland Red, owner of the most elaborate try celebrations in world rugby, was in good humour yesterday, rattling out a few rambling, cliched lines in response to a question before sheepishly admitting that he had no idea what the question was.

One thing he fully comprehends is how dangerous the South African back three will be, no matter whom they select.

An injury suffered by Bryan Habana against Samoa has clouded the picture for Peter de Villiers, but according to Ioane, whatever combination he selects out of Zane Kirchner, brought in as a replacement for second five-eighths Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Patrick Lambie and Francois Hougaard, will be strong.

The same could be said of Australia.

The versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper has spent the bulk of his time at this World Cup on the wing, but Samo's start allowed him to move back to his preferred position of centre where he is likely to stay for the quarter-final.

Both teams will be named on Friday.

- NZ Herald

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