JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Not perfect, but Wallabies show signs of improvement

Date

John Eales

In Australian sport there are a few coaches who transcend their codes. Wayne Bennett is one, Rod Macqueen another, Ric Charlesworth actually moved between codes, and in AFL, Kevin Sheedy fits the bill. Sheedy's stature was the most obvious reason the AFL seconded him as the inaugural coach of the GWS Giants this year, a team ambitiously planted in the heartland of rugby league.

Sheedy is an enigma, albeit a thoughtful enigma. Some years ago he reflected with me that he had lost more matches as a coach than any other coach in the AFL. Not one of the most obvious boasts you would think, until you realise that he has coached more matches than any other coach in the AFL. (656 matches: 388 wins, 262 losses, six draws, for those numbers folk among us.)

But it wasn't the number of losses that was relevant in his boast, it was how he dealt with them that counted. "I've driven home a loser more than any other coach, but I've driven home a loser going somewhere," he said. "Some people drive home a loser going nowhere."

The flight home after their 22-0 loss to the All Blacks and the following two weeks in purgatory have driven the Wallabies to a better place. In a kind of absolution, the pain of the past fortnight was washed away with passion in a 26-19 victory against an equally robust and desperate Springboks opposition.

It may not be nirvana just yet as they didn't eradicate much of their popgun kicking but in a heartening display their play was infused with much clearer structure and purpose.

Granted, the Boks don't pose the same threat as the All Blacks at the moment. But they remain a formidable rugby nation so the Wallabies' current six from seven run of Test victories against them is impressive.

More impressive was the manner of this victory, coming back from a 10-point deficit and holding on desperately to contain the final green onslaughts.

The performance may have been more relieving than perfect, but it demonstrated character which, due to the latest bulletin on the injury front, is timely.

The loss of Will Genia for six or more months to a knee injury is a particularly bitter pill. While aspirants will often lift themselves and grasp their opportunity, replacing Genia – the stand-in captain – is not just a matter of teaching someone else to toss a coin. Genia is central to the heart, soul and conscience of this Wallabies team, and his resilience has ensured that they haven't had to do without him for some time.

One postscript to his absence is that it may provide the opportunity for Nathan Sharpe to step up as Wallaby captain once again, a fitting responsibility for a man who continues to perform so consistently in his final handful of games.

And leadership may be the biggest challenge for the Wallabies next week. At the beginning of this season we were excited by the calibre and attitude of leaders such as James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia. Now all three are on an expanding long-term injury list as the team prepares without them for the Argentina Pumas on the Gold Coast later this week.

This will be a massive test and in some ways more difficult than the Boks because expectations will be so high. The Pumas play a simple spoiling game but, as the Boks and the All Blacks have found, simple does not equate to easily overcome. The All Blacks may have won 21-5 but every point was hard-earned and mostly earned quite late in the piece after a Puma sin-binning.

The Pumas have a draw with South Africa under their belt so the Wallabies will be determined they don't become their first scalp. If the men in gold replicate Saturday's physicality and direct, accurate phase play, it will create the necessary space behind the Pumas defensive line and hopefully avoid one of those uncomfortable car journeys home.

Comments

Be the first to comment.

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

Bledisloe Cup

Bledisloe Cup
Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
AUS 12 vs NZL 12 20:05ANZ
Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NZL 51 vs AUS 20 17:35EP
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 28 vs NZL 29 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
Featured advertisers