Greg Growden from the Sydney Morning Herald gives us the Aussie view from this weekend’s test.
After almost smashing his walkie-talkie against his forehead during the match, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer finally calmed down, and explained what it is all about.
”Test matches are not about who plays the best, it’s about who handles the pressure best,” he explained.
After a miserable Bledisloe Cup campaign, where the Wallabies’ self-confidence was severely dented, they showed in Perth there was still some life in this wounded beast, demonstrating the resolve required for a victory comparable to their three triumphs earlier in the year over Wales.
Yes, Meyer is right. The Wallabies handled the pressure better and that’s why they finally boast a Rugby Championship victory.
Observed by all, Meyer, who has the aura of being a meek and mild gentlemen, went into meltdown. As he attempted to squeeze the life out of his walkie-talkie, Meyer kept bashing away at the ”talk” button, while screaming down the line. All it needed was for him to break the apparatus over his knee, and he would have found himself No.1 on the list of ”the international coach losing the plot” category on YouTube.
(Note: Meyer’s behaviour in the coach’s box has been highlighted to me personally by New Zealand pundits too and it is rather unexpected)
Meyer’s anguish was understandable. Test matches revolve around dumb moments. The team that has the least brain snaps usually wins. Meyer knew Mtawarari’s actions were stupid at a time when the Springboks held a substantial lead, and just before half-time was the period where the visitors could drive home that advantage.
The Springboks did hold up for the 10 minutes their prop was in the sin bin. However, after that other more inexperienced Springboks lost their way, and the Wallabies relied on several late South African lapses to turn a 13-3 deficit into a seven-point triumph.
With it came enormous relief for the Wallabies at a time when they were at risk of completely falling apart. That’s why the vogue word in the Wallabies camp yesterday was ”character”, with players and coaches crediting the ”spirit of the group” to ignore the scoreboard, overcome the numerous South African recoveries and hold tight in the final minutes.
There was no better example of that than centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who somehow stopped two Springbok attackers, Lwazi Mvovo and Jean de Villiers, with the same tackle, grabbing both of them as if he was imitating Spiderman.
But nothing less is expected of Ashley-Cooper, the most devoted and unselfish of Wallabies. You can see why coach Robbie Deans often describes him as the heart and soul of the team – willing to play anywhere and do anything for the national cause.
Despite Ashley-Cooper’s sensational acrobatics, the Wallabies are still realistic enough to know they remain well short of their best. While the scrum continues to improve and there was more purpose in their attack, some areas remain diabolical.
Their persistence to kick away so much possession is a major irritant, especially when their skill level in that area is substandard. The attack is now struck down by chip-kick disease. At a time where one more back-line pass would be the smarter option, their first resort is too often trying to kick through. That strategy in Perth was a complete waste of time, especially as they had two good finishers in Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley.
Their skills under the high ball are also poor. Despite getting all the AFL gurus in, too many Wallabies are useless, armless and legless whenever a bomb is headed their way.
So you don’t have to be Che Guevara to work out what Argentina will do to upset the Wallabies on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.