Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, August 22
Deans predicts a Bledisloe belter
August 20, 2009
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is hoping his side can notch their first Tri-Nations win of the year against the All Blacks in Sydney © Getty Images
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is expecting a full-blooded contest when his side play host to the All Blacks in their make-or-break Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney on Saturday.
Deans' side are yet to get off the mark in this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy having suffered defeats at the hands of rivals New Zealand and South Africa and now face a must-win game if they are rescue their season.
An All Blacks defeat would also finish their slim Tri-Nations hopes and make it three consecutive losses for the first time since 1998. A Wallabies defeat would be their fifth in succession against their trans-Tasman rivals and would hand over the Bledisloe Cup for another year.
Both have been suffocated by the in-form Springboks in recent weeks, but Deans insisted tomorrow's test would be a worthy spectacle before a predicted crowd of close to 80,000 here at ANZ Stadium.
"I don't think either side is going to play totally conservatively. Both are at the point where we want to stay alive in the competition and anything other than a result won't be enough to achieve that," Deans said. "Under that circumstance, teams will probably be more prepared to take a risk."
Deans said both teams would be confident, despite their South African struggles which were marred by crucial errors, poor discipline and lineout blunders.
The current kick-focused style of international rugby was labelled a "poor product" by All New Zealand coach Graham Henry earlier in the day and his prolonged message to the game's lawmakers suggested the All Blacks wanted to continue spreading the ball wide, which didn't work in South Africa.
That was despite Luke McAlister being chosen outside star fly-half Daniel Carter as an extra kicking option, mirroring the Wallabies' two playmakers Matt Giteau and Berrick Barnes.
"We actually broke the line 10 times to one in that (Durban) Test match and we just didn't complete it. So that's a positive. Once we've broken the line we need to try and finish the job," Henry said. "There needs to be a balance. Say, one kick to four passes, how does that sound?"
Henry said attack coach Wayne Smith had come up with that ratio as the one the All Blacks had performed their best at. Henry felt yesterday's training at North Sydney Oval was their best of the week, a day after they'd gone back to basics with a 90-minute skills session.
Carter was the obvious gain for the All Blacks, and despite just three Air NZ Cup matches for Canterbury he had slotted back in comfortably and delivered a powerful speech on Monday with his observations of the side's shortcomings.
For the Wallabies, abrasive flanker Rocky Elsom returns after a long injury break and Deans hoped he could provide the physicality they were missing in recent tests.
Injured captain Stirling Mortlock's absence could be a telling factor, but the Wallabies' record at the 2000 Olympic venue was a plus, with six wins from nine trans-Tasman tests there, including three of the last four.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said there was a steely focus to put right the cheap errors and poor execution from South Africa.
"We're pretty keen to get back on track performing. We're not too happy with what we've done in the previous two and the guys are pretty excited about getting that sorted."
With penalty kicks dominating in recent times, the focus will be on experienced South African referee Jonathan Kaplan, who Henry said had promised both coaches he would let the test flow.
The Wallabies' scrum was heavily penalised by Craig Joubert in the All Blacks' 22-16 win in Auckland while the Daily Telegraph newspaper labelled McCaw a serial cheater and offered photographic evidence from the Eden Park test to back its claims this week.