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'Disaster': Wallabies hammered by Boks as Eddie Jones' return falls flat

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8th July, 2023
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The Eddie era is off and running. Unfortunately, it was the false start Eddie Jones and the Wallabies desperately didn’t want to occur but realistically was always on the cards.

Few international teams go to the Highveld to take on the Springboks as favourites, but this was not how Jones will have envisioned his return to playout.

The Wallabies were beaten in every facet of the game and paid the price for their errors to go down 43-12 at Loftus Versfeld.

It was the Wallabies’ eighth straight defeat at the venue since first playing there in 1963. It was also the same way Jones started his first tenure as Wallabies coach in 2001 after replacing Rod Macqueen, as John Eales’ side went down 20-15 also in Pretoria.

The Wallabies scored first through a perfectly executed backline play, as a sublime Quade Cooper ball and hands from Len Ikitau freed up Tom Wright to allow Marika Koroibete to do what he does best and sprint down the touchline to score.

But it was one-way traffic from that moment on, as the errors mounted, tackles were missed, scrums went down and shots at goal, when the Wallabies were still in the match, were missed. It was a full house of blunders, as the Wallabies’ lack of detail was brutally exposed where the air is at its thinnest in international rugby.

“This has been a disaster for Eddie Jones in his first Test match in charge,” declared two-time World Cup winner Tim Horan late in the match in commentary for Stan Sport.

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In the end, the Wallabies conceded 43 straight points to be sent packing home before some brilliance from Carter Gordon after the final siren gave the visitors something to smile about. They’ll have less than a week to prepare for next Saturday’s second Rugby Championship Test against Michael Cheika’s Los Pumas.

The Wallabies were smashed at the collision by the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 08, 2023 in Pretoria. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Springboks were brilliant. They dominated the collisions and they outsmarted the Wallabies, particularly around the maul and decision making.

Manie Libbok was marvellous on his starting debut in the No.10 jersey and benefitted from a forward pack that cleaned up at the gain line.

It led to the Wallabies being smashed by referee Ben O’Keeffe, with Jones’ men on the end of a sobering 13-3 penalty count.

O’Keeffe also went to the pocket twice, showing yellow cards to hooker Dave Porecki (collapsing the maul) and winger Suliasi Vunivalu (deliberate knockdown) and awarding the Springboks penalty tries for a double dose of pain.

“There was an opportunity to come here and put in a game that we were proud of and, to be fair, we just defended the whole second half,” Wallabies co-captain James Slipper said.

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“You’ve got to give credit to the Springboks, they put us under pressure. We’ll learn a lot from that.”

Asked what, Slipper emphasised the need to improve their discipline – a familiar theme in recent years.

“Our discipline, playing at the right end of the field. It’s a tough start but we’ve got a long year ahead of us, there’s plenty to come. We’ll keep working hard.”

Eddie Jones has a huge task ahead of him after the Wallabies were smashed in Pretoria. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Jones has never sparred any prisoners throughout his two-decade career of international rugby. How he assesses his men who first got to wear the Wallabies jersey will be fascinating.

While changes were always expected given the short turnaround in Tests and long flight home, some fears were confirmed.

Although Reece Hodge’s big boot was helpful, modern rugby is about the gain line battle and Samu Kerevi’s side was missing.

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Tom Hooper, who went off after half-an-hour with a shoulder injury, fell off a couple of tackles when the Wallabies were outnumbered on the fringes.

Vunivalu also wasn’t able to turn his reputation around despite his teammates inside him not helping his case.

But, in reality, with a badly beaten pack, few came away with their reputation in tact, including the replacement front-row with Jordan Uelese’s throwing issues once again coming home to roost.

Gordon’s brilliantly executed grubber and long range try was a beauty however and the confirmed the young No.10’s growing reputation.

“We got beaten to punch everywhere,” Jones said. “We got beaten in the set piece, we got beaten on at the gain line and beaten in the air and if you don’t win any of those contests it’s going to be a long day at the office.

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“There wasn’t many positives today. We went out there to play with a bit more pace and we were able to do that for the first 20 minutes but weren’t able to convert any pressure we put on the Springboks into points. Of course the Springboks came back and every time they got an opportunity they converted it into points.

“‘It starts with the set piece and once they’re on top they’ve got their big ball runners and there’s no better team in the world than South Africa once they’ve got an edge to keep playing on top of you.”

Earlier, the Wallabies ran out to a 5-0 lead after Koroibete’s opening try.

But Australian rugby’s poor ability to exit their own line throughout Super Rugby followed them into the international arena, as Nic White was held up in a tackle from the kick restart. It allowed the Springboks to get on the scoreboard through Libbok.

Kurt-Lee Arendse scored a hat-trick to help lead the Springboks to a crushing win over the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 08, 2023. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Then the Springboks showed how to do it, bursting through some poor defence and leaving a trail of badly exposed Wallabies defenders as Kurt-Lee Arendse eventually scored to help the home side to a 10-5 lead.

A Michael Hooper breakdown penalty midway through the half gave the Wallabies an opportunity to narrow the margin, but Reece Hodge missed from 46 metres out.

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The failure to convert the opportunity was another telling sign of the next hour to come, as the Springboks made the Wallabies pay for putting too many forwards in the maul and spread the ball wide to Arendse to score his second easily.

Trailing 17-5, the Wallabies won a penalty on the stroke of half-time at the breakdown. Rather than kicking for territory, Hodge stepped up from 66m out but his rocket boot fell just short.

Needing a fast start in the second half, the Wallabies managed to come away unscathed to begin with.

But a kick out on the full from Len Ikitau only turned the pressure back on the Wallabies after defending their own line gallantly. Seconds later, Arendse had his third and any hopes of a comeback were dead in the Loftus graveyard.

Kerevi was rightly pinged for needlessly tackling Willie le Roux after hacking the ball into touch in the 53rd minute.

From the resulting lineout, Porecki was sent to the sin bin for collapsing the maul and a penalty try awarded.

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The Boks moved further ahead when Vunivalu was also shown a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown. It was harsh but predictable given the way the law is applied, while du Toit’s try saw the Springboks score a sixth try.

Gordon’s brilliance gave the Wallabies something to smile about it, as the replacement playmaker swan dived over the line to finish a marvellous effort.

But there will be few smiles from Jones, with the Wallabies coach sternly aware of the giant task ahead of him with Australia’s World Cup opener in Paris exactly two months away.

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