An abject loss of form or an elaborate ruse to fool the All Blacks? RugbyHeaven co-editors Marc Hinton and Duncan Johnstone have their say on the Wallabies’ woeful final hitout ahead of the looming Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane.
Whatever way you look at it, master coach Robbie Deans appears to have a serious challenge on his hands as he looks to shake off any ill-effects of the record-breaking mauling at the hands of the Springboks in Johannesburg at the weekend.
The Australians, after toppling the Boks in Durban, were blasted off the park to the tune of 53-8 in the rematch, leaving many to question their motivation for a fixture that had almost no bearing on the Tri-Nations title that will be decided purely on the basis of who wins in Brisbane on September 13.
Still, it would appear Deans has his work cut out getting things back on track for Brizzie. Confidence levels must have taken a hit in Jo’burg, and there were elements of disarray about much of the Wallabies’ play.
So can he do it? Our men take their sides …
Don’t doubt the master – MARC HINTON
Forget the relevance of this Jo’burg aberration when it comes to Brisbane on September 13. Quite simply, there is no correlation between a disjointed, distracted, discombobulated Wallabies effort and the sort of challenge they’ll put out on the park against the All Blacks when some serious silverware goes on the line.
And if anybody knows how to turn things round in a short period of time it’s Deans who has made a living out of it over the years with the Crusaders.
Does anybody remember the finish to the Super 14′s regular season when Deans’ cruising Crusaders were shown up by the Highlanders in their round-robin finale, collapsing to a disappointing home defeat that had critics suggesting they may have lost form for the playoffs?
Yeah, right. The Crusaders them came out and dominated the dangerous Hurricanes in their semifinal before doing something similar a week later against a Waratahs side that was never allowed to fire a shot in the final. Crisis, what crisis?
Now, I’m not suggesting for a minute Deans sent his troops out in Johannesburg at the weekend with explicit instructions to roll over and play dead – even if their performance might have said differently.
But I have no doubt whatsoever that there was something missing from the Wallabies last week — a hard edge that you need to take into every game at this level. Nor that it was deliberately absent.
Deans made just enough changes to take some of the oomph out of his Durban destroyers, and I’m sure that the whole tempo of the week’s buildup would have reflected an easing off attitude. After all, regardless of what happened at Ellis Park, the Tri-Nations was always going to go to the winner of the Brisbane bash. In essence it was a dead rubber.
I’m equally sure Deans would not have wanted a blowout like he experienced in Jo’burg, and could have even lived with a scrambling sort of win, had it been summoned. But against a Boks outfit fired up to answer their critics, there was only ever going to be one result.
I’m also sure that Deans will make the most of his side’s misery. That he’ll be playing it for all its worth over the next fortnight.
He’s a master of motivation, and he’ll use this as the sort of wakeup call that quality coaches thrive on. He’ll be reminding his players at every turn how quickly things came unstuck and of the need to stay focused to have any chance of rolling the All Blacks. He’ll know, too, he can rark up the angry-ometer with justification as he looks to bring the mongrel back into the Wallabies game.
It looks unlikely that he’ll have either Berrick Barnes or Dan Vickerman for Brisbane, but the weekend has probably firmed his thinking as far as his alternatives go.
So will the Wallabies fire up and give the Blacks a run for their money at Suncorp? You betya.
But will that be enough for them to grab a rare Tri-Nations title? Probably not, given the way the ABs seem to be humming along. But they’ll give themselves a chance, and as Deans well knows if you can do that you just never know what can happen in a high-stakes game of footy.
Another black night looms – DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
The wobbly Wallabies carry too much baggage into the Brisbane test to seriously worry an All Blacks side that is getting into their stride now that Richie McCaw is back at the helm.
It’s not just the humiliation in Johannesburg that Robbie Deans and his inconsistent side have to contend with but also the 39-10 Eden Park loss to the All Blacks last month. Ultimately that might be the defeat that matters most for the rematch
Of course the two heavy losses bookend one of the better Australian results in recent time with their win over the Boks in Durban.
Deans will be doing his best to drum up all the positives that went into that result and chuck the Auckland and Johannesburg nightmares into the dust-bin.
I have no doubt that the Wallabies were guilty of looking ahead rather than concentrating on the job at hand at Ellis Park.
Publicly Deans has shown little emotion over that loss. But privately he will be fuming at the manner in which the Wallabies rolled over for their worst ever test loss.
Their defence was pathetic, their attack limited to kick and hope, the scrum problems came back to haunt them and now it appears their hookers have the throw-in yips that used to be associated with All Blacks’ lineouts.
Problems like these have a tendency to inflate themselves when they arise in the Boks’ backyard in Johannesburg.
But this was downright awful and leaves the Wallabies exposed to similar problems in Brisbane if the All Blacks can strike quickly.
There’s no doubt about the Wallabies being “up” for a match of this magnitude.
That goes without saying when they are playing at home and the Tri-Nations title is on the line, not to mention Australia needing a win to keep the Bledisloe Cup series alive.
I suspect the Wallabies might need a medical miracle to help them here. Deans’ trust in Timana Tahu as a test second five-eighths appears a little misguided at this early stage of the former league star’s rugby career. The Wallabies need the injured Berrick Barnes and his kicking game back in there.
But most of all they need to find a bit of spine to recover some lost ground.
Deans’ coaching credentials have been built around some amazing consistency with his previous teams.
It’s a trait he needs to implant into a Wallabies team that has had a steady stream of ups and downs in recent years rather than the one-offs blips that have blotted the All Blacks.
The rugby world waits to see the response from the Wallabies. Expect some improvement but don’t expect it to be enough.
The All Blacks might be short of a gallop having sat out the past couple of weeks and having nothing more than a warm-up against a woefully weak Samoan side.
But they have shown they have learnt a lesson already this year by heading to Brisbane early rather than show up late like they did in their Sydney shocker.
Now we’ll get to see what sort of lessons the Wallabies have learned from their Springboks shocker.Tweet