As we all calm down from the weekend, the big questions have become; a) how the hell did we do it, and b) can we do it again?
Looking at both the head to head and series stats for the game (at the bottom of the post), there is only one for me that stands out as being meaningful: the penalty count. In the first three games of the Tri-Nations the Wallabies were hemorrhaging on average 18 points a game in penalty goals. Last Saturday Australia gave away a miserly 7 penalties all game, and only one of them in Morne Steyn’s range.
Sure, 15 points makes a big difference to any score line, but when you have a side like South Africa whose default is the kick chase milking penalties, removing this scoring route chops their legs out from underneath.
But there was another factor working in concert that stats find it difficult to capture; intensity. The Wallabies were up for this game, and it showed particularly in defense. There isn’t a ready, single stat to capture it (the tackle success rate at 73% was their second lowest in the comp so far) but in this match their breakdown work and the ferocity with which they tackled hit new heights.
Take a look at the clip below, to me this epitomised why the Wallabies won. The Boks start on the Wallabies 30m mark, and 3 dominant tackles later are forced into a turnover penalty on Australia’s 40m line. From this penalty, the Wallabies take a line-out close to the Springbok line, and from a that a penalty that yields 3 points. Complete pressure reversal through offensive defense.
So the question becomes, can we do it again?
Was this a one-off, backs to the wall blip against a tired Boks side on the road at fortress Suncorp?
Or was it the dawning of a new era, where a young team got it’s first taste of what it takes to beat the best, which it will learn from and build on?
There are plenty in either of these camps, and I don’t believe the data is out there to tell us which is right just yet. You can argue that Australia are on track for a poorer finishing in this year’s Tri-Nations than last, but you can also point out that this Australian side has been far more competitive in all of it’s games so far this year, versus the blowouts that punctuated 2008.
The answer will only come with the ultimate test in world rugby, playing the All Blacks on their home turf.
And now, repeat.
|Ruck and Mauls||67||49|
|All Runs (m)||73 (591)||63 (417)|
|Kicks (m)||36 (1127)||32 (1035)|
|Scrum Wins (TH)||8 (0)||10 (0)|
|LO Not Straight||0||0|