I’m sure that the Wallabies will overcome the (supposed) hoodoo voodoo and defeat the All Blacks sometime soon.
However, I have my doubts whether it’ll be this weekend or even this year. I reckon the smart money would be on 2011.
It would be a seismic 7.1 on the Richter scale if the Wallabies actually got home over an all-conquering All Blacks in Sydney this Saturday.
The Kiwis have been a 15 point better team than the Wallabies so far this season (that’s the aggregate points difference between them).
The unknown is: how much better have the Wobblies become since they’ve been on the road and can their past inconsistencies be that easily overcome?
For those that think this test is a dud root dead rubber for the Kiwis, then think again. The All Blacks have plenty to play for and they’ll be wanting to make a statement.
The expectation from home is that there will be a 10thconsecutive win over the Wallabies and, to be honest, this team is not rated that highly in the Shaky Isles.
I guess that’s one of the reasons why they’ve ‘rested’ some of their front line players. I’ve noticed a degree of hubris and condescension in their media that only a nine game winning streak could bring.
However, the earth has moved for the Wallabies in the past few weeks. They’ve been purposeful, shown more character and have flowered to some extent, especially on attack.
In fact, they’re looking increasingly like a team that is headed somewhere and this bodes well for future enterprises – the Spring Tour comes to mind.
The Wallabies are playing a similar style of expansive, expressive rugby as the All Blacks but the obvious point of difference between the two sides is defence.
To allow the Springboks back into matches from seemingly unwinnable positions exposes a defensive frailty and a worrying lack of composure that the All Blacks will fully exploit.
Then there’s the fatigue factor. Traditionally (certainly at Super 14 level) teams flying back from South Africa have difficulty coping with the turnaround later in the week.
Jet lag and time zones take quite some time to filter through the system. Hopefully they were wearing sunnies on the way home?
The All Blacks will be as fresh as daisies after their three week break and a cunning injection of new blood.
That’ll mean Robbie will definitely be needing to use all his bench again.
There are a couple of enforced changes to the Wallaby squad this week. Lakkie Turner is plucked from Seven’s heaven and comes into the starting XV for an injured Drew Mitchell.
And on the bench, Huia Edmonds gets a callup for the suspended Saia Faingaa. I thought we might have seen the last of Huia but no, he gets another taste of international rugby.
For the All Blacks there’s only one injury change and that’s Aaron Cruden in for Dan Carter.
There has been some rotation. Victor Vito is on the blindside flank for Kaino, Piri Weepu at halfback for Cowan, Owen ‘Otto’ Franks for bro’ Ben and Izzy Dagg on the wing for Smokin’ Joe.
Colin Slade, Anthony Borich and Rene Ranger come onto the bench.
Cruden lacks experience and is defensively weak (that evens things up). I think they’ll miss Carter but let’s not underestimate him – he plays a lot like QC.
I can’t see the other changes seriously weakening their side. On the contrary, Weepu and ‘Otto’ probably strengthen it?
This will be the proverbial (and clichéed) defining test for both teams. For the Wallabies: to show themselves exactly how far their deposit in belief has moved forward.
For the All Blacks: to maintain the continuing psychological and physical edge that Ted and his team have over the Wallabies.
I want our guys to give a good account of themselves and to show us there has been incremental improvement.
A bonus would be Bam Pocock outplaying Sir Richie on the night (who becomes the most capped All Black captain ever).
A win looks a bridge too far to me but you can see that there is building going on, not quite the crumbling edifice it threatened to be early on.
Not seismic, but building nonetheless. All Blacks by 9.
Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Ben McCalman, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (c), Nathan Sharpe, Mark Chisholm, Salesi Ma’afu, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson
Huia Edmonds, James Slipper, Dean Mumm, Richard Brown, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Faingaa
Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Victor Vito, Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Jerome Kaino, Jimmy Cowan, Colin Slade, Rene Ranger
Referee: Mark Lawrence (J. Kaplan C. Du Preez M. Goddard)
Weather forecast for Sydney on Saturday: Fine weather 12 – 21C
Game: 8.00pm start AEST – venue ANZ Stadium, Sydney