Rugby Championship

Honeymoon over for McKenzie

2013-09-08 13:13
Ewen McKenzie (File)

Sydney - The honeymoon is well and truly over for Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, who will need to inspire a massive turnaround from his deflated players if they are to avoid becoming Argentina's first victims in the Rugby Championship next week.

Three games into McKenzie's tenure, the Wallabies remain winless in the southern hemisphere tournament, their forwards beaten up in Saturday's 38-12 loss to the Springboks in Brisbane which followed two opening defeats to champions New Zealand.

The Australians were outgunned and outplayed by the South Africans, particularly in the pack where the Springboks' monster loose forward trio of Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw dominated.

The Pumas were combative in their 28-13 loss to the All Blacks in Hamilton and will feel they have the opportunity to knock over the Wallabies in Perth, particularly if the game is played at a slower pace and scrums come to the fore.

After notching his third loss from his three matches in charge, McKenzie repeated his mantra that he had selected the right players for the tournament, but it was up to them to perform on the field.

"We've got the players who have earned their spots and they are desperate to go out there and play," McKenzie told reporters after the Brisbane loss.

"They have to make the most of their opportunities, and it's their time to shine, so if we're not getting the outcome then we'll go back and have a look."

Having not had the outcome, McKenzie, who took over from New Zealander Robbie Deans after the Wallabies' morale-sapping series loss the British and Irish Lions, may be in for a fruitless search.

While the forwards have traditionally struggled against the world's more physical sides, Australia's vaunted backline have taken a step backwards under the former test prop.

Having demoted rookie flyhalf Matt Toomua to the bench after two starts against the All Blacks, McKenzie's preferred number 10 Quade Cooper failed to inspire on Saturday and committed a number of howling mistakes that cost his team field position, possession and points.

"I don't think the team is getting any better - if anything it is getting worse," 1991 World Cup winner Michael Lynagh told Sky Sports UK.

"We didn't look like scoring, our defence was very poor ... our scrum has gone backwards, our attack is too predictable and there were too many handling errors.

"I am really disappointed at the moment as there is no aspect of the play where you'd say 'that looks promising'.

"Australia are in a huge hole ... (and) they need to have a long hard look at themselves and start working harder as the honeymoon period for McKenzie is certainly over."

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Fixtures
16 August 2014
Australia v New Zealand, Sydney 12:05
South Africa v Argentina, Pretoria 17:00
23 August 2014
New Zealand v Australia, Auckland 09:35
Argentina v South Africa, rgentina 21:10
06 September 2014
New Zealand v Argentina, apier 09:35
Australia v South Africa, erth 12:05
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