Ewen McKenzie puts Wallabies on notice
September 30, 2013
Australia's Michael Hooper made a dominant display in Wallabies loss to South Africa © Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie has flagged changes to his starting XV to play Argentina in The Rugby Championship Test in Rosario on Saturday, saying he tracks ''repetitions of errors" after noting that Will Genia, Matt Toomua, Benn Robinson and Ben McCalman all performed well off the bench against South Africa in Cape Town.
"If we're not getting the outcome we want, we'll have to see if there's someone else that can give it,'' McKenzie said after the Wallabies succumbed to another dispiriting loss against the Springboks.
Genia, in particular, made an immediate impact when he replaced Nic White at half-time, driving much of the Wallabies' attack in the second stanza and sparking an improvement from Quade Cooper. McKenzie would not be drawn on whether he would start his former first-choice No.9 against Argentina in Rosario, after benching him against the Pumas in Perth and the Springboks at Newlands for previous disappointing efforts, but said that Genia's energy in attack and defence was pleasing.
ESPNscrum correspondent Greg Growden also noted that McCalman was "easily the most effective of the Wallabies replacements" when he went on for Ben Mowen at No.8, "because, unlike some of his teammates, he did not tippy-toe his way around the breakdown".
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins
McKenzie said the Wallabies "didn't get the game right" in Cape Town. "We were 20 points off and we're way off the mark at the moment. This is sheep station stuff. You are playing the best teams in the world. You can't be loose. That's the one thing in Test rugby that is unforgiving. It will cost you. We aren't grabbing those moments. Test matches are about composure under pressure. We lack composure at key moments. We are in the space of working out who can handle it and who can't."
Mckenzie's Wallabies have now lost four of their five Rugby Championship Tests since he replaced Robbie Deans as coach and consciously selected a younger squad with long-term development in mind, and he believes the group is struggling because of the collective lack of "maturity". He said that lack of maturity saw the team fail to adapt their failing game plan after slipping behind the Springboks early in Cape Town - sticking to the ''kick first'' tactics after South Africa had scored 20 points in 10 minutes.
''We talked about that mid-first half, where we were going to play and kick from, [and] that didn't quite transpire,'' he said. ''We had opportunities to attack and we were probably still a bit too conservative ... we were a bit slow off the mark in making that adjustment." McKenzie said "it's a combination of things that are letting us down consistently".
"It's very frustrating at the moment. I feel like I say that every second week. There is a maturing aspect we need to develop. We have guys battling away. They're certainly playing with more character now, but there are execution errors that put us under pressure, and until we sort those out it's hard work."
McKenzie suggested that he would also keep the players on the pitch at half-time in Rosario after trying the tactic in Cape Town.
"I felt that our weakness had been in the second half and we were maybe relaxing too much in the dressing room," McKenzie said of his decision at Newlands. "We weren't getting the outcome in the second half so I thought we'd stay out in the environment and the players enjoyed it. We've been doing it for the last 100 years and it's only in the last 10 that we've gone inside, and it worked quite well."
McKenzie said he was open to trying new things to get the best out of his side. But he didn't go as far as giving them oranges. "I was going to take oranges on but I didn't think the players would appreciate the humour."
Springboks easily defeat Wallabies in Cape Town
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd with AAP
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament