Wallabies v Springboks match report

Garth Hamilton Roar Guru

By Garth Hamilton, Garth Hamilton is a Roar Guru

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    Jannie De Beer, Jonny Wilkinson … Francois Steyn? If anyone had forgotten that this is a rugby World Cup year, the sight of the young Springbok fullback Francois Steyn belting the skin off a Gilbert at Newlands should have been enough to remind you. The World Cup is almost here and South Africa was forced by a bold Wallaby outfit to show their drop kicking hand.

    After a week of ridiculous hype, South Africa found that two wins against England’s Under 21 team and Super 14 victory in the worst year of the competition’s history are not really worth that much. The pressure of such foolish self-indulgence almost broke the Springboks who were surprised by the Wallaby’s second quarter gusto.

    The return of the old Brumbies halves and midfield combination was supported by an improving Wallaby forward pack. The Aussie scrum was probably beaten on points over the stretch of the game but this is nothing to be ashamed of. South Africa’s pack is genuinely world class and was made to fight for their victory by the battling Australians. The difference in the strength of the Australian scrum is surely visible enough now for even the most fervent of John Connolly’s critics to acknowledge.

    Both Australian hooker’s faltered on their long lineout throws. Adam Freier’s first two throws were called long and neither found their mark. Ewen McKenzie’s statement that the Freier-Vickerman combination is one of the most competitive in the world was shown to be equally inaccurate. Stephen Moore’s long throws weren’t much better but he showed his extra bulk also comes with fantastic hands, delivering Matt Giteau a great try after a period of prolonged Wallaby pressure.

    For South Africa, Schalk Burger was in everything and was used with great effect in the midfield with his legs pumping long into the tackle. Bakkies Botha and Pierre Spies both lived up the Springbok mythology of massive, rampaging forwards with more than a little touch of the thug about them. Butch James however looked like the team’s Ringo Starr, offering little more than weak rugby league style kicks to try and break the well defended Wallaby line. Outside him the Springbok’s outside threats will want to get more ball in their hands during the world cup.

    The game was fast, hard and heated and English referee Wayne Barnes was not up to the standard required. Neither, for that matter, was Australian fullback, Julian Huxley and no amount of spin from certain parts of the Australian rugby media can hide the fact that the gap between him and Chris Latham is monstrous. Australia lacked a counter-attack and Huxley offered no threat. With the boot he kicked as many shockers as he did long touch finders. Counter attacking is the most important area of the game that Australia must improve in and Latham’s return to fitness is crucial.

    At the moment, Australia’s back three are their Achilles heal. The Springboks, All Blacks, Irish and French all have exciting fullbacks and wingers who offer their teams effective counter attacking options either in broken play or when returning kicks. Lote Tuqiri did very little to justify his apparent automatic selection and there was no evidence of any real improvement in his pace. On the other side of the park Drew Mitchell had more bad moments then good ones and will be hoping he gets another chance to impress. Perhaps Lachlan Turner’s amazing year isn’t quite over yet.

    Disappointingly the Wallabies had no answer in the second half for the inevitable response of all South African teams under pressure – stuff it up the jumper, get angry and shunt. Brilliant and even brilliantly-illegal defense held the Boks out but the Wallabies will need a spectacular knock out punch from their back three if they want to play rope-a-dope against the big boys.

    Whilst the Springboks won the battle the world cup war is yet to be fought in French trenches. Finding their feet of clay, the Boks won a fantastic game but not by as much as they thought they would. The Wallabies on the other hand lost but not in the manner most people expected and not by as many points either. The Australians can genuinely take a lot from this game and look forward with some confidence to playing this South African side on the return leg of the competition.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • June 18th 2007 @ 10:29am
      Ben said | June 18th 2007 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      On the bright side, it is a real turn around for Australia to be able to say that the forwards performed well and won us the match whereas the backline failed to perform. With Eddie, it was the otehr way around. If nothing else, this shows that forward dominance is the key to putting a team in the position to win matches.

      The forwards all performed pretty well although surprisingly both Moore and Frier has the yips at lineout time.

      In the backs, Larkham seemed out of sorts and to unwilling to run at the line and risk being hit. The whole packing him in cotton wool approach seems to affecting his game too much. Giteau was fairly quiet other than being poked in the eye by Burger (accidental) and scoring a try to retaliate. He seems too small at 12 in defence. Mortlock had his usual forgetable game. Tuqiri and Mitchell tried hard but never really had much in the way of opportunity. Huxley was a liability.

      The trouble is that it is too late trying to put new combinations together now in the backline and Australia A showed that the other possible contenders aren’t ready to step up just yet.

    • June 18th 2007 @ 10:39am
      Stu said | June 18th 2007 @ 10:39am | ! Report

      I bit the nail of my left hand pointer finger down to the quick. It was a gripping match.
      I think that the Wallabies can take some positives out of the match as it was a gutsy defensive effort. Steyn got us back for the ’99 RWC – what an amazing kick!

      It was great to see Vickerman back, and Sharpe is finally stepping up to the mark – i have never seen him as committed.

      We could have won- Imagine if we had got more possession – Why did we have such little possession?

      I think that Garth is spot on with his comments about Huxley. Even against average teams he can appear haphazard and sloppy. You can tell the bloke tries, but that’s not good enough reason to persist in him. The back three need some spark and that starts with the fullback, give Turner or Sheperd the role, or hell, as our defense is so good, give Hewat a go.

    • June 18th 2007 @ 11:20am
      sheek said | June 18th 2007 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      I guess it’s a sign of the times. When I first started following Rugby in the late 60s-early 70s, Australian fans would be happy if we were just competitive against any of the other ‘big 8’ nations!

      For example, between 1968-74, we played 26 times against other ‘big 8’ nations for just 3 wins, 2 draws & 21 losses. We managed one draw in 8 matches against the ABs, & lost all 7 matches to the Boks.

      Now after a narrow loss, when many expected a bloodbath, we’re treating it as a sort of triumph.

      Here’s some constructive suggestions:

      Gregan doesn’t offer anything more, not after 130 tests. Let’s see what Cordingly, Holmes, Valentine or even Henjak can do.

      Larkham is tired, erratic, gunshy, conservative. Kicks too much these days, a sure sign an aging player no longer trusts his body. Needs to be retired gracefully.

      Giteau’s lack of size counts against him at 12. Better at 10. Has all-round game to keep defence guessing.

      Mortlock has lost zip off pace, essential at 13. Better at 12, where his size can be imposing, both in attack & defence.

      My team (all fit): 15-Latham, 14-Shepherd, 13-Ashley-Cooper, 12-Mortlock(c), 11-Tuqiri, 10-Giteau, 9-Cordingly, 8-Palu, 7-Smith, 6-Elsom, 5-Vickerman(vc), 4-Sharpe, 3-Blake, 2-Polota-Nau, 1-Dunning.

      Backup XV (all fit): 15-Mitchell/Gerrard, 14-Turner, 13-Cross, 12-Staniforth, 11-Gerrard/Mitchell, 10-Beale, 9-Holmes/Valentine/Henjak, 8-Hoiles, 7-Waugh, 6-McMenamin, 5-Chisholm, 4-Horwill, 3-Shepherdson, 2-Moore, 1-Holmes/Hardy/Henderson.

      Not too many options really. A solid group of 30 players rather than spectacular.

      Consider this: The Wallabies play out of their skin in all 4 TN matches. They lose all 4 narrowly. They manage 35% compounded possession. They make 550 compunded tackles.

      They will be too knackered for the World Cup!

      We can’t play a forward pack that struggles for 50% possession parity with a conservative backline. READ Gregan & Larkham.

      We might as well pick young backs willing to challenge the defence, put the defence in two minds, & damn the consequences. We don’t have the forward power to play conservatively. And we won’t win the WC with 35% possession.

      It was an exceptional performance by the Wallabies. But it doesn’t hide or solve the structural & personnel problems.

    • June 18th 2007 @ 12:09pm
      Vincent said | June 18th 2007 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      I think the Wallabies improved in a lot of departments BUT if they keep giving any team the sort of possession they gave the Springboks on Saturday and amassing such a high tackle count then they do so to their own detriment in the long run. Its great to have such good defence but you have to score points and we all know how tackling endlessly drains a team!

    • June 18th 2007 @ 12:12pm
      slomo said | June 18th 2007 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

      Congratulations to the Wallabies for the defensive effort. Excellent. Larkham did what I expected him to do, hang back so as not to take the hits. This is something that is going to end badly.

      Huxley may not be up to it, but nor is Lote. Anyone who watched the game without knowing who he is could easily have described him as useless. Beats me how they play Huxley ahead of Hewatt.

    • June 18th 2007 @ 12:25pm
      Rod said | June 18th 2007 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      I think we should give gredit where it’s due and congratulate the Wallabies for a very good performance against a world class team playing at home. To play SA in SA is very hard for any team, and unless you’ve been there and experienced it you can’t fully appreciate the effort the Wallabies put in on Saturday.
      If it wasn’t for a few poorly executed kicks, we would of won.
      I say Well Done Boys, you’ve given me hope for the 30th June!