Barnes calls on pack to let backs apply running game
Keep the faith ... Berrick Barnes wants the Wallabies' backs to prove doubters wrong. Photo: Getty images
THE Wallabies backs, infuriated they have been branded conservative and defence-oriented, want to use the Springboks Test to remind all they actually know how to score tries, and plenty of them.
It has been a barren season for the Wallabies, scoring just six tries in six Tests, and with it have come complaints that they have become one-dimensional and lack midfielders who can make a break. Scotland in Newcastle and New Zealand in Auckland succeeded in holding the Wallabies tryless; Australia's tally was only boosted by scoring three against Wales in the second Test in Melbourne. And two of the six tries scored were by forwards - Nathan Sharpe and Scott Higginbotham.
But Wallabies centre Berrick Barnes said it was not the time to give up on their attacking capabilities and, as long as they received quality possession, they were hopeful of showing their true form when they confront South Africa in Perth on Saturday night.
''We wanted to play expansive football against the Kiwis but we didn't get the chance to. It revolves around getting front-foot ball,'' Barnes said yesterday.
''It's a whole XV situation for us. The Kiwis carried hard and were able to get in behind us, and that allowed them to offload. And to do that you have to win the contact. They were doing that consistently, and while we scrambled well we couldn't dent them. So we have to take a leaf out of what they [the All Blacks] were doing in attack. We have to be a lot more physical to match the Springboks.''
In a bid to give the Wallabies back line a solid and speedy structure, the Test selectors picked the fastest Australian provincial player, Dom Shipperley, on one wing, beckoned back Kurtley Beale at fullback and returned Adam Ashley-Cooper to his best position - outside-centre.
But as Barnes says, so much depends on what is happening up front - at the set-piece and the breakdown. The Wallabies are aware the Springboks will adopt their traditional muscle game, and are preparing accordingly.
Wallabies forwards coach Andrew Blades said yesterday the team had focused this week on ensuring they quelled the Springboks' power source - their scrum. And a lot relied on undermining Springbok tight-head prop Jannie du Plessis, before he undermined them.
''The Springbok scrum is very different to New Zealand, and they use du Plessis to attack an opponent - and as you saw in the England Test series, there was a lot of sideways movement, with the scrum drifting across the field,'' Blades said.
''They rely on their bulk and force, and it is similar to some of the old Argentinian packs. They then use du Plessis to come across at an angle to try and create movement.''
To counter du Plessis, the Wallabies forwards have been working on getting their set-piece formation and structure right.
''A lot revolves around the hooker's shoulders, and making sure he stays nice and low. This ensures that du Plessis can't get under their ribs on the engagement and cause problems. We got some good insights from the England Test matches and how they adapted over the series,'' Blades said.
''They really got disrupted by South Africa early in the series and, as it went on, they used du Plessis's angle to really create some difficulties for the Springboks later in the series. Our guys have done it well at training, but it is a matter of now transferring it to the heat of battle.''
Blades, a respected Wallabies tight-head prop, said there were some advantages in confronting the Springboks. Unlike New Zealand, who can be unpredictable up front and constantly change their tactics, the Springboks remain rigid in their approach. ''In a South African Test, the guys know exactly what's coming, and you just have to steel yourself for it. It is going to be direct, physical and aggressive.''