Australian rugby breathes sigh of relief but problems persist

first_imgThe collective relief was palpable when the full-time whistle sounded in Brisbane on Saturday night. The Wallabies had defeated the Springboks 23-18 in a dour Test at Suncorp Stadium but crucially had snapped a four-game losing streak to relieve pressure on besieged coach Michael Cheika.Yet Australian administrators, coaches and players should take a deep breath because the game in this country is still nowhere near where it should be on or off the field. The most alarming aspect of Saturday night’s Test was the disappointing 27,000 crowd, filling just half the venue in a rugby stronghold. The disconnection between the grassroots and the professional arm of the game is widening to Grand Canyon proportions.And very few, if any, of those diehard Wallabies fans would have come away from the game satisfied with what they saw. After back-to-back shellackings by the All Blacks, just about any win would have been a good win for the Wallabies. But the average standard of the Wallabies-Springboks Test was an accurate reflection of what the game actually was: a contest between the fifth and seventh-ranked teams in the world. comment Australia sport With the World Cup in Japan just 12 months away both the Wallabies and the Springboks have a lot to worry about. The two key questions facing the Wallabies are whether Cheika is selecting the right team and if they are playing the right style of game. At the moment the answers are no and no. It has become irrefutable that Taniela Tupou must start for the Wallabies at tight-head prop. “The Tongan Thor” is only 22 years old, which is young for a Test prop, but he is the best front-rower in the country. Australia can no longer afford to gradually introduce him to international rugby. He is the rock upon which the Wallabies team can be re-built. He made an immediate impact when he came off the bench on Saturday night with his powerful scrummaging, ball-carrying and defence. If he is fit, he has to start.Veteran prop Sekope Kepu seems to have fallen out of favour, but he should be recalled to play loose-head prop. With Tupou and Kepu the Wallabies would have two front-rowers who were capable of running with the ball and passing it. As it is, the Wallabies currently have very few tight-five forwards who can bend the defensive line, which is undermining their game-plan. Cheika hinted that he would persist with the Kurtley Beale-Matt Toomua playmaker experiment and that would be a wise course of action. The combination did not really click in attack and significantly, none of the Wallabies outside backs received the ball on the fly. But the two playmakers need time to develop a rapport. But the benefit was evident of Toomua at inside-centre in defence, bringing a calmness and solidity to the mid-field where previously there had been panic and confusion, particularly on counter-attack from turnover ball.Demoted five-eighth Bernard Foley did not receive many opportunities when he came on towards the end, but he has the potential to play the “finisher” role that Beale played at the 2015 World Cup.In many ways the Wallabies’ win against the Springboks was a perfunctory victory. After all they had lost just one of their last nine Tests against South Africa on Australian soil.  Australia rugby union team Read more Wallabies edge hard-fought Springboks Rugby Championship clash Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email Share on Messenger Rugby Championship Read more Australia v South Africa: Rugby Championship 2018 – as it happened Rugby union Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest The distinguishing feature of the Wallabies’ performance against the Springboks was that they overcame the adversity of losing three key players – David Pocock, Israel Folau and Adam Coleman – on the eve of the game. This showed a lot of character and the Wallabies deserve to be admired for it, but they were also very fortunate to encounter a Springboks team that played “stupid” rugby, squandering their forward dominance with foolish and careless play in the backs.The Wallabies may not be so lucky when they play Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday night. The Pumas were well-beaten by the All Blacks 46-22 in Nelson, but they arguably performed better against the Kiwis than the Wallabies did in their 38-13 and 40-12 losses.A loss to Argentina would see all of the pressure that was relieved in Brisbane heaped right back onto the Wallabies again. If the Wallabies beat the Pumas, it will probably elicit another sigh of relief. But Australian rugby does not need another “phew” moment, but rather a satisfactory and satisfying performance. Share on WhatsApp Topics Reuse this contentlast_img

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