Australia v South Africa, Rugby Championship
Ewen McKenzie goes back to drawing board
August 25, 2013
Christian Leali'ifano made a strong break as the Wallabies dominated the opening half-hour © Getty Images
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is considering changes to his team and tactics alike after a second consecutive disappointment against the All Blacks.
McKenzie stuck by all his fit troops after the 47-29 defeat at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, but he wouldn't promise that he'd keep the faith for a second time after New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup for an 11th successive season. The All Blacks weathered an early storm before dominating the final 50 minutes to defeat the Wallabies 27-16 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
"We'll go back to the drawing board and have a look," McKenzie said in Wellington, knowing the Wallabies face South Africa on Saturday week at their happy Brisbane hunting ground, Suncorp Stadium, where they have consistently run the big Springboks pack off their feet. "Different game, different opposition next time; we'll have a look and maybe play the game a bit differently."
The Wallabies deployed a game plan in Wellington that involved more tactical kicking, having been punished for running too much and passing too laterally in Bledisloe I. McKenzie was happy with the run-kick balance in the first half, as well as with the blend of width and penetration in attack, as the Wallabies created a host of try-scoring opportunities which they frustratingly failed to finish. But he accepted there was too much aimless kicking in the second half, while the scrum was dismantled and the lineout fell apart.
"I think we advanced in the balance of the game but the error-rate - in different areas and different people [to the first Test] - made it hard to sustain pressure," McKenzie said. "We didn't make any progress there but we did make progress in the flow of the game."
Fullback Jesse Mogg and tight-head prop Ben Alexander appear to be the players under most pressure to keep their place while five-eighth Matt Toomua, who played solidly, is under pressure from Quade Cooper.
Cooper has played some of his best Test rugby against South Africa, but he does not appear to offer the attacking threat that he did before his knee reconstruction in late 2011. Cooper played the final 23 minutes off the bench in Wellington, but rarely took the ball to the line and challenge the defence, preferring to kick and pass.
McKenzie denied Cooper was burdened mentally by a lack of confidence in his knee. "He's fine," the coach said. "I think he's trying to fit into [a game plan]. It depends what part of the field we're at. We have some specific ideas, and he's trying to fit into that space."
The Springboks will head to Australia after back-to-back victories over Argentina, but were pushed all the way in recording a 22-17 win in Mendoza on Saturday.
New Zealand confirmed their trans-Tasman dominance in Wellington (video available only in Australia)