South Africa v Australia, Rugby Championship
Wallabies to play 'smart', like Springboks
September 27, 2013
Nic White retained the No.9 jumper in part because he has a better kicking game than Will Genia © Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie was appointed Wallabies coach on the promise of his team playing "the Australian way"; it is ironic then, is it not, that he will send his team out to play like South Africa in The Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday, two days after his rival for the national job, Jake White, quit the Brumbies and Australian rugby amid reports that he felt he had been overlooked for the role because he was South African.
McKenzie's Wallabies have won only one of their four Rugby Championship Tests to date - defeating Argentina by one point in Perth after a humiliating record loss to South Africa in Brisbane - their attempts to play the running rugby of the Wallabies' glory days falling flat against the physical All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas.
But James Horwill, regaining the captain's armband in Cape Town after missing the Tests in Brisbane and Perth with a hamstring strain, has indicated the team is learning the lessons of Test rugby.
"You look at the trends in the game and the teams that aren't playing as much footy in their own half are getting the results," he said. "You have to look at that and understand there's something in that. We always want to play positive rugby every game, but you need to be smart about it, the way you do it. You have to pick your times."
McKenzie retained Nic White at scrum-half, preferring the Brumbies man he started ahead of Will Genia in Perth primarily because of his long kicking game, indicating the Wallabies will play more for territory at a ground where they have lost six Tests - including the Rugby World Cup 1995 quarter-final against England - since last winning there in 1992.
Horwill said the modified game plan indicated nothing more than playing smarter.
"A lot of people view it as the more you kick, the duller the game," he said.
"But look at the All Blacks. They kick a lot - more than most teams - but no one would say the game they play is a dull, boring game plan. You have to pick and choose your moments, and be more positive in the way you go about things. But you don't want to play too much footy in your own end because the way the game is being officiated, and so forth, you are just opening yourself up to getting points put on you.
"Especially against a team like South Africa, with Morne Steyn kicking at 90%. If you give them an opportunity in our half, there's three points and they can accumulate quite quickly."
Horwill said the Wallabies would still attempt to use what they believed was their better mobility to discomfit the Springboks. "When we have the ball in hand we need to make sure that when we do play we can move them around a little bit," he said. "We've still got to dent the line and go forward but with a bigger back line, even though they're big, they're quite mobile. Our forwards are very mobile compared to [the Springboks], so we hope that we can run them around a bit when we do play. We just need to pick and choose our moments."
McKenzie, earlier, said the Brumbies players in his Wallabies squad had not been distracted in their preparations by the news of White quitting Canberra. McKenzie said the fact that White's decision had been made public quickly meant there was little distraction for his men.
"It popped up as a rumour and then turned into reality pretty quickly so I guess it means it's sorted in the context that there's certainty about what's happening," McKenzie said. "What happens from the Brumbies' perspective won't be solved tomorrow or the next day in terms of where they go, but I think from a clarity point of view from the players here, they know 100% what's going so it allows them to put it to one side and get on with playing this game.
"I don't envisage it's going to have any distraction."
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