Sloppy Wallabies trounced by ruthless Springboks
Australia's Michael Hooper, center, is tackled by South Africa's Duane Vermeulen,during their Rugby Championship at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
It’s hard to write about a football match when your team was just so hopelessly, utterly outplayed.
The South Africans ruthlessly put the Australians to the sword, taking advantage of the oh-so-familiar Wallaby mistakes that many fans have come to expect of the men in gold.
Yes, the usual suspects featured: aimless kicking, dropped balls, poor lineouts. The list goes on.
But that really wasn’t the worrying part.
Having read all about what the Wallabies need to do to beat the Springboks for the last two weeks, I thought that maybe they had read some of Campo’s articles, would keep the ball in hand and show us what their backline is really capable of.
The level of ball running and ball playing skill displayed by the Wallabies this morning would convince even the most convivial proponents of the running rugby style that maybe they’re just not cut out for it.
Sure, they’re severely down on personnel, and injuries took a serious toll on the side as the game progressed, but just the lack of fundamentals was striking to anyone who was watching.
Passes missed their mark way too often. The handling in broken play was abysmal.
The Springboks looked a cut above as they offloaded in traffic, scooped up the pill neatly from the deck and passed crisply. What’s more their kicking game was long and accurate, ensuring touch more often than their opponents.
I did not catch the advantage line stats, but I couldn’t count the number of times the Wallabies were losing ground when they decided to take it up. Hugh Bladen astutely diagnosed this as one of their key problems throughout the whole night.
There was very little direction from behind the scrumbase, with our half and five eighth not combining effectively. While Kurtley Beale, as always, tried to inject some dynamism into the attack, he was a lone soldier, with perhaps the obviously compromised Digby Ioane the exception.
Nick Phipps passed relatively accurately, but looked lost when he was forced to carry the ball. Perhaps the Wallabies have been spoilt by the no longer ubiquitous presence of Will Genia.
But to me this still wasn’t the worst part.
There was very little desperation on display from one side.
The boys in green revelled in the niggle, looked to dive on every loose ball and did their darndest to contest the ball in tackle, ruck and maul situation.
The Wallabies looked like an under 12’s coaches’ worst nightmare as they stared at the ball like a foreign object when it lay prone on the ground.
Exceptions to the rule were Radike Samo, who made some tackles I swear I felt shake the foundations of my Northern Europe home, Beale, Ioane and an overzealous Dom Shipperly.
The rest of the backline went missing for much of the evening.
It all descended into farce as their physical failings turned tactical when they were denied an eight replacement, Saia Faainga was not allowed on the field, and the Wallabies were forced to play the final ten minutes with only fourteen men.
Much credit must go to the Springboks, who took full advantage and played fast, physical and passionate rugby.
Maybe the injuries were too much to overcome. Taking Pocock, Genia, Horwill and, dare I say, Cooper out of the side will do that. But it seems deeper than that.
Something has to change if the Wallabies are going to match it with the big boys. As many have said on this site, second place isn’t good enough.
Our players, especially our centres, must learn the meaning of “advantage line” and begin to push it.
They must learn to be less selfish and offload, and must be daring enough to do so in traffic. That is where gaps are to be found. It worked very effectively for the Boks today.
It was embarrassing to hear Joel Stransky saying he felt sorry for them.
These guys are good rugby players who should not need the sympathy of commentators. That should hurt, and it should spur the Wallabies into action.
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