New Zealand v Australia, Tri-Nations, September 19
Deans boasts of mental gains
September 18, 2009
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and assistant Jim Williams cast an eye over training in Wellington © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans is hoping the Wallabies' recent victory over South Africa can give his side the edge in their Tri-Nations finale against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
The pressure on Deans was gaining significant momentum until they stopped the rot with a 21-6 victory against the Springboks in Brisbane last time out. But Deans still has an All Blacks hex to overcome, having lost his five encounters with Graham Henry's team. The Wallabies have also won just two of their last 13 Bledisloe Cup encounters and defeat tomorrow would be their 10th in a row on New Zealand soil.
But Deans believes the victory over the eventual Tri-Nations champions at the Suncorp Stadium could be a turning point for his young squad.
"It was good for us to get a tangible return, it was an injection of belief I guess," said the former Crusaders coach. "But we're also conscious of the fact that can dissipate pretty quickly. Hence we're keen to play well again. It's a damn important game to us.
"The thing you get with a young group is they're not burdened by the past and they're very excited. We're hopeful that [Brisbane] would have been a fillip for them and that some of that would have galvanised into a deeper seated belief. Because when you look at the history, that has been a contributing factor, that lack of belief."
A lack of mental toughness has been cited as the reason behind the Wallabies' failure to convert winning positions into success and having led at half-time in their last four losses it is a claim Deans accepts to a certain degree.
"You can put it down to mental toughness ... it's a fair accusation to make," he said.
Signs his young side, with an average of age less than 24, are hardening up came with the victory over the Springboks - a feat that has been beyond the All Blacks this year.
"I think the one thing you can be sure of is there will be a response from the All Blacks. As history shows whenever they are under pressure they respond," Deans said. "And you're dealing with an experienced group here, something like eight (starting players) have been here since 2003. So they're not going to be comfortable and they will want to respond.
"I think even within that contest [Brisbane] it took us a while to settle. Once we got our noses in front there was a settling but I think we're realistic enough to know this is a different contest."
Deans could sympathise with the public pressure on his opposite Graham Henry, whose job he missed out on in 2007, but - with Australian rugby boss John O'Neill seated in the back of the press conference room - said he had his own problems to worry about.
"Our numbers don't stack up as well," he said. "That's part of the game that's part of this industry, you can't get away from that, it's part of the territory."
Wallabies captain George Smith, who will line up against the All Blacks for the 23rd time on Saturday, says the excitement of taking on New Zealand remains just as high despite the increasing number of games between the two southern hemisphere heavyweights.
"We do play them a lot within a year, but the excitement doesn't wane. It's always been a pinnacle for Australian players to play against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe. Playing the All Blacks is not like playing any other team. There is a special meaning there.
"The desire to beat them doesn't change and tomorrow will be no different. The boys will be out there to try and win this match. As history has shown we haven't beaten them too many times over here in New Zealand so it's a great opportunity for us to do that."