Australia v South Africa, Rugby Championship
Poor finishing costing Wallabies: Folau
September 9, 2013
Springboks' Bryan Habana eyes Wallabies' Israel Folau © Getty Images
Israel Folau believes the Wallabies' lack of finishing polish is costing them dearly in his challenging Test rugby baptism, after the side slumped to their third defeat in the championship and there fifth of the year.
League convert Folau endured a mixed first appearance in the Wallabies' No.15 jersey in the 38-12 loss to South Africa on Saturday night, as he was well contained by the Springboks and too often ignored by teammates.
But the code-hopping star prefers fullback to wing, where he played against the All Blacks, and thinks the result against the Boks could have been a lot closer if his team made the most of their try-scoring chances. "We had a lot of opportunities where we could have put some points in behind but we couldn't execute and that was the difference between us and the Springboks in the end," he said.
A clear early line break by Nick Cummins gave repeated phases inside the Springboks quarter but twice the Wallabies wasted overlaps with poor options and passes that were intercepted.
Folau also put Christian Lealiifano into space 20m out with a one-arm off-load when the side was down 19-12 but the inside centre dropped the ball in the next tackle, and the pressure was relieved. South Africa were then clinical at converting their opportunities - blowing the home side away during an eight-minute blitz when they crossed for three skilful tries.
Folau and coach Ewen McKenzie pointed to the fact Australia made more line breaks and ran the ball more than the Boks, as they did against the All Blacks in the previous two Rugby Championship defeats. "It's very tough - three losses in a row," Folau said. "We have to stay tight as a group. It comes down to finishing off the plays and (big) moments in the game - we're not doing that at the moment."
"We had a lot of opportunities where we could have put some points in behind but we couldn't execute and that was the difference between us and the Springboks in the end."
McKenzie was also disappointed by the lack of finish by the Wallabies side, "In a good quality game there are only four or five moments to get across the tryline and you have to grab them. And we're not doing it" he said.
Folau was expected to add an extra dimension to the Wallabies' attack but admitted the transition from Super Rugby, where he starred with NSW Waratahs, was huge. He turned the ball over at the ruck with his first run and also gave a penalty away later in the first half from a kick-return which gave the Boks a 16-6 lead.
"It's a tough level and it's a very big step up from playing Super Rugby," he said. "I'd like to get my hands on the ball more and make something of it. Last night there were times that it happened but I think I can do a better job."
McKenzie was pleased with Folau's display and indicated he'd stay at fullback for Saturday night's clash with Argentina in Perth.
Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers congratulated the 24-year-old post-match for staying in rugby. "It is so great to see a guy like him signing on with union and what he has done for the game is great," de Villiers said. "He is going to become a massive player in this game.
Christian Lealiifano was unable to capitalise on Isreal Folau's lines © Getty Images