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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden writes ...
One of the worst Wallabies teams in 30 years
Greg Growden
September 30, 2013
When will the Wallabies next win the Mandela Challenge Plate? © Getty Images
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Australia's Michael Hooper takes the ball into contact, South Africa v Australia, The Rugby Championship, Freedom Cup, Newlands, Cape Town, September 28, 2013
Michael Hooper Takes the ball into contact © Getty Images
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A scrum as solid as plasticine, where Australia's front-rowers outdid each other in performing the best belly flop. A flawed game plan, aimed at aimlessly booting everything away early on. Impotent leadership. Defending as if you had concrete slabs for boots. Fear and loathing every time a high ball went up.

No wonder the Wallabies were never in the Newlands contest, and were lucky to escape with just a 20-point drubbing - 28-8.

There were plenty of excuses before and after the Wallabies' pitiful performance against the Springboks, but they don't hide the glaring fact this was a very ordinary Australia line-up that ran onto the field in Cape Town - one of the worst of the past 30 years. It has been some time since the Wallabies have appeared in a Test match with so many players who are realistically struggling to convince anyone but themselves that they are of international standard.

Then the situation is hardly helped when the few players who can legitimately say they are worthy of Test status suddenly disappear, including skipper James Horwill. So no surprise the Springboks tallied 20 points in the opening 18 minutes before then opting to hit the cruise-control button. The Wallabies were more spirited in the second half, but they never threatened. This nonentity of a Test was over well before half-time. And yet again the Wallabies try-scoring ability was pathetic.

Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • Man of the Match: It is two years since Fourie du Preez started a game for the Springboks but you could hardly tell with the classy scrum-half a prominent figure throughout the game. His vision, distribution and experience are key parts of the Boks' armoury and they will be hoping for a repeat performance from their No.9 when the All Blacks come to play next weekend.
  • Key Moment: Flip van der Merwe's yellow card in the closing moments of the first half put the Boks on the back foot and from that point they struggled to regain the momentum that threatened to blow the Wallabies away. As a result they only notched one more try and missed out on what could be a valuable bonus point.
  • Hero of the Game: Boks winger Willie le Roux may not have clocked up as many metres with ball in hand as some of his team-mates but his all-round industry and his superb finishing skills earn him the nod here.
  • Villain of the Game: Springboks lock Flip van der Merwe can consider himself very lucky to have escaped with just a yellow card for leading with an elbow as he looked to make a tackle. He can probably expect a call from the citing commissioner for what should arguably have been a red card while his team-mate Jannie du Plessis may also find himself in trouble for clawing at the face of Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore.
  • Talking Point: Regardless of the All Blacks' result against Argentina later today, the stage is now set for a title showdown between the world's two best sides - South Africa and New Zealand - in Johannesburg next weekend. Can the Boks avenge their defeat in Auckland and deny the All Blacks back-to-back Rugby Championship titles?
  • Play of the Game: Zane Kirchner's try for South Africa was a wonderful sweeping move but our vote goes to Australia for Quade Cooper's exquisite cross kick that found debutant Chris Feauai-Sautia who then evaded a couple of tackle before touching down for a score.

The Wallabies have scored only 21 tries in their past 21 Tests, and that terrible statistic is an indictment to the traditions of Australian rugby.

As disconcerting is the fact the team's defensive structure has also fallen apart. What hope has a side even of being competitive when it misses 18 tackles during the first half? And when your big signing Israel Folau is repeatedly shown up in the last line of defence, either by being well out of position or thinking he was back in the AFL ranks, believing that waving your arms around like a lost chook is good enough, then you are in enormous strife.

It became outright embarrassing when the Springboks put up the bomb. Numerous Wallabies appeared to have absolutely no interest in taking the high ball. Half-hearted effort followed half-hearted effort, but luck at least in this area worked for the Wallabies because none of them were injured when refusing to put their body on the line.

You can comprehend why the Springboks were subdued after this victory, because they know this was a wasted opportunity. Here was a rare chance to annihilate the Wallabies; they didn't do so, and they failed to claim an important bonus point, because they simply slackened off in the final hour.

At least Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie showed some common sense by hooking Nic White at the break after the scrum-half wasted so much first-half possession by aimlessly booting the ball downfield. With his best player, Will Genia, back in his rightful spot in the second half, Quade Cooper looked better and, for a few short moments, there was at least some formation to the Australian play. So now hopefully the folly of having Genia sitting on the bench is over. While we have hopefully learned that lesson, make Genia the Test captain.

The Wallabies scrum presents an even bigger dilemma. The front-row - who must have thought they were instead involved in a diving competition - went straight to ground at virtually every set piece. French referee Jerome Garces on several occasions gave the Wallabies the benefit of the doubt, but it is really frightening to think what Argentina's pack will do to them next weekend after the Pumas succeeded in frog-marching the All Blacks scrum down the field on Sunday.

One way to alleviate some of the pain is to try to bolster the forward contingent by including a bit of might. That includes starting Sitaleki Timani in the second row for Horwill or Rob Simmons, and replacing Ben Mowen at No.8 with Ben McCalman - easily the most effective of the Wallabies replacements because, unlike some of his teammates, he did not tippy-toe his way around the breakdown.

Also forget the theatrics after the recent Perth Test. The Pumas would have beaten the Wallabies had used their brains in the final quarter at Patersons Stadium; instead, Australia secured the most unconvincing of one-point triumphs. Rosario will be different.

South Africa were far too good for Australia (video available only in Australia)

Stephen Moore and the Wallabies forwards struggled to compete in the first half © Getty Images
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