Wallabies coach Michael Cheika speaks ahead of his side’s Test against South Africa.
The Wallabies have gone down the wrong track and do indeed need to turn back. Spring is for Spring cleaning!
Was Michael Cheika’s rant at half time responsible for the Wallabies miraculous, second half turn around? Did asking the reserve front row, plus Bernard Foley, Dane Haylet-Petty and captain Mie Hooper to stand up, like naughty schoolboys work a treat before storming out? Good theatre yes, but who had a quiet word before they ran back out?
Who pulled them in tight and simply said “Now listen up. We can do this. Sanchez is off. They are less fit than us and we are at altitude. We are going to plan B. Old school and tight. We need to make them tired and our line out is struggling, so ball in hand.”
“Inside balls, pick and drives, forward runners, staying square at 10 and 12 – earn the right to go wide. When they have the pill, we get off the line and back the guy either side of you to make his tackles. No penalties”.
The real story of interest is who did the talking?
Banjo’s favourite Rugby World Cup moment was the quarter final in 1991 when the Irish scored a converted try with four minutes to play to hit the lead. Running it from a scrum deep within their own half, with openside flanker Gordon Hamilton, chasing in support, like a man possessed, to score his first test try as Rob Egerton made a noteworthy cover tackle.
The Irish hit the lead by 18-15. With captain Nick Farr Jones off the field and four minutes on the clock, the inside word is that vice-captain Michael Lynagh spoke calmly to the huddle under the sticks.
No ranting no raving. A clear and simple message. Long kick off deep into the left corner, a good chase from Egerton, the right footed kicker would have little angle and they could get an attacking line out.
Phil Kearns to throw to John Eales at four, attack the mid field with a switch move to go-to attacker, David Campese etc.
A scrum feed followed the maul curtesy of Simon Poidevin. Play to Campese again on the right wing and Lynagh himself backed up like a mad man to score in the right corner and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the pivotal moment in a victorious World Cup campaign.
Rest assured, when the ranting was over at half time in Salta, someone took the lead.
Perhaps it was Cheika himself. Either way, after months of following the wrong road, the Wallabies turned back.
Some are calling it a turning point but that insinuates that the plan finally coming together. In this case, it was a 180-degree turn, back down the road.
Are the Wallabies soft, not having a go, not fit enough, lacking attitude or pride in the jersey? Of-course they aren’t. They are professional sportsmen, have trained hard and will be hurting.
Do we have the right cattle? Perhaps the Wallabies don’t have the best cattle in the world right now but have used largely the best cattle they have. But a good team of players has always given the team of good players a good run for their money.
Add the likes of Dempsey, Jed Holloway, Isi Naisarani and Jake Gordon either Samu Kerevi or Kuidrani to the 23 over the coming year the Wallabies will indeed have their best cattle on the field.
This will be at the expense of hard triers that do their best in Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons and Nick Phipps with the other spots up to form.
The lineout may need Simmons or Rory Arnold if it still isn’t working at the expense of Izack Rodda.
Too many positional changes, too many rookies.
Sekope Kepu, Lukhan Tui, Pocock, Simmons, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Israel Folau and Haylett-Petty have played in relatively new roles and/or positions.
Adding to that all of three young hookers as well as Tupou, Rodda, Hanigan and Marike Koribete are relatively new to Test rugby. It was always going to be a big call to compete with any of the top tier nations.
Do we have the right coaches? With the second half come back in Salta, we look set to find out.
The spring tour is another chance to make good while many of the punters will have left the band wagon temporarily to focus on just how bad our cricket team has become and how not even Mitchell Starc would make the great teams of the past.
Stephen Larkham will take a lot from the success of the old school approach of the second half in Salta, with inside balls, pick and drives and forward runners as well as the 1-3-3-1 or the All Blacks.
The play behind moves adopted from rugby league need to be played down as part of the arsenal, not the arsenal. Playing direct and waiting to late in the phases to go wide worked with success in Salta.
Defence will be helped with selections and anyhow, Cheika is loyal, almost to a fault and won’t throw the passionate, but under pressure, defence coach Nathan Grey under a bus.
Banjo’s team for the RWC 2019 remains relatively unchanged and has a caveat that Beale needs time on the bench to revert to form and eventually at fullback.
It should be as follows: Scott Sio, Folou Fianga, Alan Ala’atoa, Luckan Tui, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock (c), Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Thomas Banks, Matt Toomua, Samu Kerevi, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale.
Bench: Sekope Kepu, Polota-Nau, Taniela Tupou, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Dane Haylett Petty.
In fairness to the current players and coaching staff, if we allow for comparison between eras, with Bob Dwyer’s team of 1991, are short on experience and smarts, not talent.
The team that defeated England 12-6 in the 1991 World Cup final was Marty Roebuck, David Campese, Jason Little, Tim Horan, Rob Egerton, Michael Lynagh (vc), Nick Farr-Jones (c), Troy Coker, Simon Poidevin, Willie Ofahengaue, John Eales, Rod McCall, Ewen McKenzie, Phil Kearns, Tony Daly.
Of the current Wallabies, realistically would we pick Adam Coleman for McCall or perhaps put Willie O to No 8 and include David Pocock. It would be a big call to replace Roebuck or Edgerton even for Folau.
These two were not the biggest, fasted, or most skilful players. They rarely played a bad game and were certainly two great competitors and rugby brains. A good team of players is what the Wallabies of 2019 can become.