MARK KEOHANE writes Australia were woeful in Auckland and the All Blacks will at least get a contest when they play the Springboks.
Many Australians were trying to take comfort with a view that the All Blacks were that good; not that their side were awful, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen knows the Springboks will provide something resembling a Test because they haven’t been as scarred as those Australians who year in and year out have taken a beating against the black machine.
This was Australia’s poorest effort, in terms of what lined up and what they offered in every facet of the game. On another day, when passes stick and the All Black forwards know that they have to provide a platform first, this would have been 60. There were five or six times the All Blacks were over the line or a metre away and they blew five pointers.
Every All Black was an offload king and this allowed Australia to escape a scoreboard humiliation but there was no disguising the most emphatic beating between the two great rivals. New Zealand’s defence was ruthless and it was like a heavyweight asked to club a welterweight. Australia had intent and desire but they had no conviction because they were not strong enough, not good enough and not skilled enough to ask any questions of a New Zealand defence that did everything but assault them. Everything was legal about the All Blacks defence and the hits were huge and often delivered in twos and threes.
To keep any team scoreless at this level is an achievement and the All Blacks have done it to Ireland (60-0) and now the Wallabies (22-0). But the attack was poor and lacked patience and precision. The lineout was again a weakness for the All Blacks, but the Australian effort was no better.
The scrum, from an Australian perspective, was a shambles. Why can’t a nation of strong men scrum? No backline would have been effective getting the ball that came Australia’s way and there can be no criticism of Australia’s attack or Quade Cooper’s lack of attacking threat. The ball was never delivered to No 10 anywhere near the gainline. Cooper when he got it had to scramble a kick or try and beat a defender with a pass and hope the recipient of the pass produced a miracle moment. The pressure of the All Blacks defence was sustained and relentless. The chase of the kick lasted 80 minutes, the kick-offs were always contested and scrumhalf Will Genia will feel he played against eight All Blacks forwards and not a nippy halfback.
When Genia looks disheartened and disinterested then you know how bad it must have been wearing the Wallabies No 9 jumper in Auckland. The most alarming aspect has been the regression of the Wallabies in the last year. Deans, who has lost 14 of the 17 Tests against the All Blacks, keeps on talking of a learning curve but after five years talk of learning is an insult to any Australian supporter.
Coaches always judge a team’s spirit and collective on the way they scramble in defence and chase kick-offs or up and unders. A good chase can turn the most ordinary of kicks into something special. Australia chased nothing, yet their decision-makers continued to kick. It was embarrassing.
It was too easy for the All Blacks and this could explain the lack of patience and authority in decision-making. Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu did as they pleased in the midfield, with Williams enjoying a fantastic send-off. He’ll be back in two years and in 2015 he will again be the biggest attraction.
Many may not enjoy the mercenary in him and many will never forgive a player of such pedigree who opts for a Japanese club jersey over that of the mystical black pullover but whatever your view of his career decisions there is no denying the qualities of Williams as a player. He can play and in tandem with Dan Carter the moments will always have been too few.
Richie McCaw also can’t be praised enough. He has now beaten the Wallabies 23 times in 29 starts and lost 12 Tests in 107. Yet he plays with the enthusiasm of a bloke in his first Test or chasing his first Test win. New Zealand knows his value, but they also know how much he will be missed because there won’t be any player who will match his contribution in an All Blacks jersey.
McCaw has had some titanic battles against the Wallabies, but he won’t have easily enjoyed such a one-sided contest. The conspiracy theorists could well think Robbie Deans was a New Zealand plant in the Australian camp.
The Boks will be weary but hardly fearful. Physically they can match the All Blacks and the lineout is always an area in which the New Zealanders struggle against the South Africans. But the Boks cannot possibly offer as little as the Wallabies did.
Argentina will prove more difficult for the All Blacks and Argentina should believe victory against Australia in Argentina is a probable and not a possible.
Deans has lost to every nation in the top 10 but Italy, and even then the Wallabies sneaked victory in Italy. It has also put the Welsh effort into perspective.
Wales fancy themselves as being the equal of the All Blacks. Not quite.
There is only one team that can trouble the current All Blacks and that is the traditional rival South Africa, especially in South Africa.
The All Blacks deserve every accolade for the efforts in the year post their World Cup win. Few teams have shown such desire to be successful, but it has been made that much easier because of the charity of the Aussies.
Saturday has to be one of the lowest in Wallabies history – and under Deans that is some statement given they’ve lost to Scotland (in Australia), Samoa (in Australia), England (in Australia) and taken many a beating in Europe and a 50 pointer in South Africa.
No South African or All Blacks coach would ever have seen a second season with that return and Australia will be a factor again the moment one of their own is asked to plot the downfall of New Zealand. Deans, for all the Super Rugby coaching pedigree and titles with the Crusaders, has been a disaster the equal of what was offered as a Test effort in Auckland on Saturday.
Bring on the Boks – and let’s have a Test match this season.