"The first Test of the season has "ambush" written all over it". Photo: Wolter Peeters
Robbie Deans will this week have to show that, apart from being a top-level coach, he is a master psychologist, motivator, mind reader and faith healer. This is one of the toughest weeks in his often traumatic five seasons with the Wallabies.
One of his worst experiences as Wallabies coach was in late 2009 when Scotland humiliated his team at Murrayfield. How the Wallabies fell apart that night has never been forgotten by Deans. Now with only limited training time, he has to confront Scotland again tomorrow night in Newcastle. The first Test of the season has ''ambush'' written all over it.
Adding to Deans's concerns is that the core of his Test team involves players who would probably rather be playing darts, table tennis, carpet bowls, anything except rugby - not surprising after all the pain they have been subjected to while running around with the woeful Waratahs in recent weeks.
Wallabies selections for Scotland Test
The Wallabies team selection for the 2012 international series were announced today. With five new names on the sheet, the Wallabies start their domestic schedule against Scotland, in Newcastle, on Tuesday night before a three test series against Six Nations Champions, Wales, later in June. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images
Just 14 hours after being thrashed by the Hurricanes at Allianz Stadium, Berrick Barnes, Sitaleki Timani and Dave Dennis were running around with the Test team at the Sydney Grammar field at Rushcutters Bay. The surroundings wouldn't have brightened this trio's broken spirits, after experiencing a record sixth straight loss the previous night. It was raining, it was muddy and Deans pushed them hard in the only proper team run before the Test.
After weeks of tough scrutiny, Barnes must pick himself up and guide the Wallabies. Ditto Timani and Dennis. The lure of Test jerseys will alleviate some of the pain, but it will still require all of Deans's powers to ensure they are in the right head space tomorrow night. Then again, they are probably just relieved to be getting away from the biggest migraine in Australian rugby.
Wacky Waratahland went on another tangent at the weekend with its chairman Edwin Zemancheff breaking a ''four-month silence'' to state the board wanted supporters to know their ''No.1 priority'' was to give them ''a team and organisation that can represent them on and off the field with the pride and passion that NSW fans deserve''.
To ensure this is not the latest example of spin coming out of Moore Park, and that they are actually serious, this ''No.1 pride and passion priority'' must include the Waratahs board having a hard look at themselves. The hierarchy involves administrators who have been there a long time and made glaring errors - starting with getting rid of Ewen McKenzie in 2008.
That was really smart. Since then the Waratahs have gone nowhere and McKenzie has taken the Queensland Reds to their first Super Rugby title.
Then the administrators allowed Kurtley Beale, the team's star attraction, to leave. And Ben Mowen keeps rubbing their noses in it by excelling with the Brumbies this year.
Intermingled with these bungles have been baffling administerial changes, including NSW Rugby and the Waratahs being run by different bodies, and it hasn't been long for rifts between those two to emerge.
Head office has contributed heavily to the Waratahs demise. Big changes are required, not just at team level, but even more at the administrative level, in the hope a fresh beginning can kick-start an ailing organisation that has turned into a laughing stock. Not surprisingly, many Waratahs fans have given up on them.
The Reds transformed themselves by getting rid of dead wood throughout their organisation, and now have a strong figurehead in their chairman and former Wallaby Rod McCall. The Waratahs have nothing to compare.
And if there was a mass sweep-out similar to Queensland, a different Waratahs board would be smart enough to consider beckoning McKenzie home. And he may well be interested considering that Sydney is his family base.
But McKenzie would only return to the Tahs if there were widespread changes at the top … and who would blame him?