It’s tough times as a Wallaby supporter. Michael Cheika’s team is under pressure and it’s as though the team has forgotten how to win. At times like this the coaching staff and the team have to stay on task and deal with technical and tactical issues rather than get caught up in the drama of the situation. It’s probably a good thing this next game is on the road as it will be easier to keep the squad focused and aligned.
In this analysis we’re going to look at some key moments and look for learnings that schoolboy players and coaches can take away.
The Wallabies got off to a disastrous start to the game possibly because Kurtley Beale was a little anxious or maybe because he wasn’t clear on the team’s exit strategy. Watching the clip you can see the first kick off was caught in centre field. That’s the perfect position for a right foot kicker to kick the ball to his own right touchline. It means the kicker’s right foot is protected and he can chose to pump it long or put it out without getting charged down.
Instead of kicking from the first ruck, Kurtley organises a hit up on the left and then drops into the pocket to kick. Because of the extra hit up he’s further away from the right touch line plus he’s far too shallow. For mine he doesn’t give himself enough room to kick and the Springboks clearly set out to apply charge down pressure.
Credit should be given to the Springbok coaches because the pressure on our exit was a tactical decision. Beale’s lack of depth meant he was forced to pass and the South African exit trap caught us out. There is a saying in rugby – exit easy and save your juice to apply pressure in your opponents half. Hopefully the Wallabies can address this because we can expect Argentina to adopt the Springbok exit pressure tactics in Salta.
In any code, at any level, if you concede two consecutive tries in the first 20 minutes you’re in big trouble. When the Springboks scored their second try it was a major blow to the Wallabies already fragile confidence. To be fair the Wallabies should not have conceded this try. We have numbers in the front line of defence and we have a sweeper in position to mop up any breaks. Pollard is many things but he’s not a live wire running threat.
The Roosters showed in the NRL Grand Final that great defence will win big games. In contrast, the Wallabies defence in this moment was shabby and made the task of winning on the road extremely difficult. These two soft tries (bang bang) suggest this Wallabies team have a crisis of confidence. There is no excuse for the defenders involved in this try.
Blind Side Blitz
There is a saying among coaches when attacking against a blitz defence – the blind side is your friend. In order to Blitz the defensive line works hard to keep numbers on their feet and have width on the long side. It’s very difficult to play around a Blitz that is well organised and this Springbok Blitz is that. They were outstanding v the All Blacks making a record number of tackles in a test match.
However, there is always an Achilles heel and Will Genia exposed the Springboks on the blind side twice to drag the Wallabies back into the contest before halftime. In the first clip Genia uses a beautifully weighted pass to put Reece Hodge in the corner. In the second clip he uses his running and support game to score himself. Both clips illustrate the fighting qualities of our scrum half. Without his blind side efforts we’d have struggled to get a foothold in this test match.
The Wallabies have no choice but to tough it out and be brutally honest in this week’s review. These are painful lessons but that is the price this team must pay to get better. The tide will turn if they all stay tight and fight to improve.
It is concerning though that we struggled to score points in the second half. With the half time score 20 v 12 we clearly needed to come up with at least two tries to win. Unfortunately that was beyond us on this occasion.
Michael Cheika and his coaches will be under fire again this week. They desperately need a win in Salta to keep the wolves from the door. It’s not an easy assignment but it’s a must win game and the players must step up to protect their coaches. Let’s hope this test is a turning point for our team.
Over the weekend we saw the fight back spirit of the West Coast Eagles in the AFL and the tactical smarts of the Sydney Roosters in the NRL. We need our Wallabies to be inspired by these teams and produce a performance all Wallaby supporters can be proud of. It’s time to shine boys!