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When courage is not enough

Date

John Eales

Before the Eden Park Bledisloe Test in Auckland at the weekend the All Blacks reverted to their own haka, Kapa O Pango. It's one the squad created themselves and they seem to draw on it when they want something special. The crowd sense it and so does the opposition.

This was always going to be a tough night for the Wallabies, for if it's not hard enough playing the All Blacks at their most threatening fortress, doing so when your preparation has been disrupted and theirs was near-perfect requires the most Pollyanna of all optimistic thinking.

One of the hallmarks of this All Black team is consistency, in both selection and tactics. Such consistency builds momentum, week to week, producing performances that snowball on each other – 27-19 the other week, 22-0 last week.

Subtle changes enhance previous tactics and confound an opposition scrambling to play catch-up.

Subsequently, when a stable team like the All Blacks meets an emerging and relatively disrupted team, the performance gap can seem near-impossible to close.

This scenario sums up where the Wallabies and All Blacks sit at present. It is stability v instability, confidence v uncertainty. And forced and unforced changes to the Wallabies squad, and particularly the starting team, only magnify such differences.

Take the All Blacks' use of Sonny Bill Williams. In the first Test he was used primarily as a decoy, whereas in this encounter he emerged as a first-choice attacking option, creating havoc through his size, speed and skill.

Watching him play such a dominant role makes you lament that he is now off to Japan to play less rugby, at a lower standard, while earning significantly more money than playing for the world's best team in the world's toughest competition. There's something wrong, illogical and perhaps unsustainable about that scenario.

Aussie rules and rugby league don't share such a conundrum. Their best get paid the top dollars to ply their trade in Australia, in the toughest competitions in the world in their sports. The TV dollars have followed. Such a luxury is not afforded the Australian Rugby Union, a victim of rugby's global appeal.

SBW's absence will weaken the All Blacks – but not by much – and it won't help the Wallabies because we don't play them again until late October.

It would be easy now for the Wallabies to feel blue. Rightly, they still mark their card against the All Blacks, even though it may not be useful for the All Blacks to do the same against us.

In fact it's possible they have no peer at present and should judge their performance only against their own stellar standards.

The Wallabies, however, should take pride in the courage, if not the clarity, of their display. Persistence and an insatiable irritation must propel them from here.

New Zealanders should enjoy this team and this era for it is special, but it won't last forever. It never does, even though it may be difficult to see it ending any time soon. The Springboks may be their only real measure this year, but that remains to be seen.

The Springboks will also be the measure of exactly how the Wallabies lie compared to the rest of the world. Victory against them will show there is more right than wrong in this regime. A loss will tighten the screws.

One thing is clear, however, and that is that the Wallabies are playing catch-up with the best. As is the rest of the rugby world, I might add. The temptation when you play catch-up is to always look for new ways of doing things. Sometimes however, the solution is to just do the same and simple things better.

Selecting Quade Cooper was a move in the right direction but the Wallabies can't expect such a move to work immediately. They must be patient and build a team over time.

The place to start would be to identify the World XV or potential World XV players in the squad and build the team around them.

This might mean sticking with some players through thick and thin, hoping that after the erratic may come the genius.

The final gesture of Kapa O Pango looks like a throat-slitting action. When the All Blacks first introduced this haka they were challenged about it and emphasised that it was not throat-slitting but rather the drawing of hauora; the breath of life into the heart and lungs.

Either way, as an opponent and as a spectator it makes sense. They play a cutthroat game and take your breath away.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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