Courage and guts not enough for Wallabies
Wallabies' prop Ben Alexander (R) celebrates after defeating Argentina's Los Pumas by 25-19 in their Rugby Championship match at Gigante de Arroyito stadium in Rosario. (AFP Photo / Juan Mabromata)
The Wallabies cannot rely on courage alone to beat the All Blacks. Guts and fortitude from the men in gold will not produce a string of victories on the coming spring tour. Let me explain my contention.
The media was full of praise for the Wallaby win in Rosario, as it should have been. The rugby writers emphasised Australia’s commitment and never-say-die attitude.
But none of them wondered if Argentinian rain was different from Australian rain. They didn’t ask why our team had such a dreadful case of the dropsies.
None of them dared to say that we are playing lousy rugby under a fish-out-of-water coach. Instead, they waved the red, white and blue flag hammering away at our remarkable ability to go out there and leave blood and intestines on the field.
Paul Cully got it right when his pick of the 15 best players in the Rugby Championship did not include one Wallaby. We have no idea what his 15 would have looked like had all our bandaged stars been available.
The injury tsunami will see a lightweight Aussie team playing the All Blacks in Brisbane and result in Aussie loss by quite a margin. The fast field will help the Kiwis more than it will help us because their backs, and their forwards, are quicker than ours.
But this third Bledisloe is just a revenue raiser, and it’s our fervent hope than all the players on both sides come out of it in good shape for the spring tours.
We’re told that the Wallabies will be fortified on their tour by the recovery of Kepu, Palu and Adam Ashley-Cooper who, incidentally, should not play against the ABs – top neurosurgeons recommend a 30-day layoff after a knockout.
But even if Sharpe agrees to go, and does his Agincourt speech again, no matter how much grit and resolve we show we still won’t have the talent, the teamwork, the variable game plans or the glue that cements a side’s performance to take on France, England and Wales on their home grounds and emerge winners.
Nobody will come close to interrupting an All Black grand slam. Scotland and Italy will be easy meat, Wales will compete but in vain, and while England will have a robust pack they don’t have a lock who can moat 30 metres to score, or an eight who runs like a centre in support.
And their backs, with Toby Flood, long-sleeved, earnest but non-creative at 10, and a no-threat midfield, will be badly outgunned.
The Boks will brush aside Ireland and Scotland, and stomp England. The Saffers have major power in the pigs, two locks who dominate in the air, and a bruiser and a terrier on the flanks. I predict that Elton Jantjies will revive a long lost Bok running game, and with Pietersen available and Habana outside JP, their backline speed will be overwhelming.
So as I see it we’re in for some winning rugby on the part of New Zealand and SA, and some losing but brave rugby on the part of the Wallabies.