When test matches go wrong – review of Australia vs South Africa TriNations in Johannesburg

When test matches go wrong – review of Australia vs South Africa TriNations in Johannesburg

When you get hammered by a record 45 points, the summary of how you played is pretty easy: shit-house. So what I’m going to do here are two things – put together the main causes of the arse pounding (at 53-8 there were plenty) and out of that pull what the Wallabies might have learned going into the all important Tri-Nations decider against the All Blacks in Brisbane on the 13th September.

1 – What went wrong

  • Fitness levels. The Wallabies were destroyed from about the 20th minute on, whereas the Boks were still full of running in the 80th. This isn’t just a matter of training at altitude for the week leading up (why wouldn’t you base yourself at altitude for the whole tour?) but stems back to the Irish game earlier in the season when Deans admitted squad fitness wasn’t where it should be. When you’re out on your feet mistakes creep in, tackles are missed and it becomes impossible to defend the breakdown, which was the pattern of the game
  • Tactics. Considering the above, do you a) try and outrun the home team at high altitude or b) play for field position and apply pressure? While the Wallabies actually attempted to play more rugby in the first 20, this was exactly the wrong thing to be doing – running from the 22, clever 22 re-starts etc – and it cost dearly.
  • The problem was, there was no kicking game in any shape or form. Whether or not it was the loss of Barnes, Giteau didn’t even try anything meaningful. This should have been the way we controlled the pace of the game. And if the only kick you can do is a midfield bomb then you can’t call yourself a fullback. Especially if there isn’t going to be any meaningful kick chase.
  • Line-out. Only last year Australia was second only to the Saffas in the line-out, this year we’re a fµcking basket case. You simply can’t have a shit scrum and a shit line-out and not expect to get a stuffing. How on earth was McMenimen ever going to replace a Vickerman?
  • Defence. This is the most worrying. Even if you try and rationalise Saturday as an abberation, the stats, as pointed out in this article, show the previously stalwart Wallaby defence to be in freefall. The Deans line of “These fellas know how to tackle, it’s just about trust” isn’t holding water any more and the nagging voice with the question of why we don’t have a defense coach like Muggo or Kissy is getting louder and louder. Out of 164 attempted tackles, 34 were inneffective and 41 missed. Leaving a success rate of 52% (vs 69% for RSA) and resulting in Eight tries in a match for fµcks sake.
  • And I should say of course that the Saffas played bloody well. Aggression, pace, smarts. On top of this Bryce Lawrence didn’t seem to think they could knock the ball on or fall over a ruck. When it’s your day, it’s your day.

2 – Learning

  • Well, read above obviously. They’re all pretty big fµcking learnings. But another important one is personnell. Sure, no-one played well, but the bench players who got the start: TPN, Tahu, Waugh, McMenimen all proved the bench is where they belong, if they’re lucky.

Funnily enough, even with this spanking, I still saw positives in the Johannesburg debacle. There was some fluent attacking play, especially in the first half. But the Wallabies always managed to drop a pass, miss a tackle or stuff a line-out at exactly the wrong moment, thereby pumping the Bok momentum to runaway train status by the second period.

The ABs in Brizzy won’t need this help. Aussie Robbie and these record breaking (not for the right reasons) Wallabies have a hell of a lot to put right in two weeks.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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