James O'Connor (Gallo Images)
Brisbane - The Australian media didn’t allow their Wallaby players to lick their wounds after they were demolished on Saturday night by the Springboks, laying into them and savaging the players and coaching team after their fifth defeat in six starts.
As it happened: Australia v SA
Rob Houwing's Bok ratings
VIDEO: Hooper spear tackle on Habana
Led by former World Cup winning flyhalf Michael Lynaugh, the press corps had little sympathy for the beaten Wallabies as took aim at the way the Australians played, and the fact that there is little they can do to rectify things in the short term.
Australia will face Argentina in Perth this weekend in what looks to be the battle for the wooden spoon in this year’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship but while they beat Los Pumas twice last year, there is growing doubt about their ability to keep the Argentinian challenge at bay.
“This whole year has not been good and I don’t think the team is getting any better - if anything it is getting worse,” Lynagh, who works as a television pundit, said.
“We didn't look like scoring, our defence was very poor - something that has been a factor for the last few games - our scrum has gone backwards, our attack is too predictable and there were many handling errors.”
Lynagh said he didn’t appreciate footage of James O’Connor laughing and smiling with Springbok players after the 38-12 defeat.
“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 I think that is because they have got too comfortable.
"James O'Connor was laughing with the Springboks at the end and while it’s okay to be a good sportsman, I don’t think a willy-nilly performance like that hurts them enough.
“They need to have a long hard look at themselves and start working harder as the honeymoon period for McKenzie is certainly over.”
Australian rugby journalist Jim Tucker called the loss “awful” and embarrassing in the Courier-Mail.
“The Wallabies nosedived to an embarrassing record loss to South Africa that became more one-sided than the Federal election,” he wrote.
“Newly-elected coach Ewen McKenzie admitted in the numb aftermath that the Wallabies might have to consider "dumbing down" their approach after countless errors handed the inspired South Africans the momentum for a 38-12 triumph.
“Four straight losses for the Wallabies cannot be stomached as the recession we had to have. The Wallaby forwards were belted on Saturday night, bullied at the breakdown on so many occasions by a more physical, technically superior pack.
“This wasn’t just a defeat the Wallabies suffered last night. It was a humiliation and an embarrassment, with the Springboks running in three tries in eight minutes at the death, and the fact that such mainstays of the side as David Pocock, James Horwill and Scott Higginbotham were missing from the gold ranks mitigates scarcely at all, although it would be churlish not to at least concede that the pack deployed last night bears no resemblance to the Wallabies’ best.”
Wayne Smith, who writes for The Australian said the Wallabies game had been “reduced to the lowest common denominator” under Robbie Deans and now they were paying the price.
“Dumbing down the Wallabies was not what McKenzie was brought in by the Australian Rugby Union to do. Indeed, the very opposite. It was precisely in response to valid accusations that Australia’s game had been reduced to lowest common denominator level under Robbie Deans that made a change of coach unavoidable in the wake of the British and Irish Lions series defeat.
“Yet it is not as though McKenzie is demanding of his players that they bring to the game, one to 15, stills that only the Ella brothers, Andrew Slack and Ken Catchpole could ever master. The first two times winger Nick Cummins carried the ball against the Springboks last night, he dropped it. Catch the ball. Hold the ball.
“It wasn’t the Wallabies’ inability to master some highly intricate McKenzie maze of a game plan that allowed the Springboks to claim their first victory in Brisbane since 1971. It was their failure to perform the most basic of skills when they counted.
“Bad enough that the Wallabies game doesn’t appear to fit the limited skill levels of the people trying to implement it, but the way they are even attempting to play the game is seemingly out of synch with what these days constitutes winning rugby.
“Box kicks, aggressive rush defence, set piece dominance – these are the building blocks of victory in this year’s Rugby Championship and if that all sounds like a throwback to the bad old days of 2007, when, perhaps not so coincidentally, South Africa last won the World Cup, then maybe Australia is only penalising itself by so stubbornly committing to entertaining rugby.”
“Of the six tests Australia has played this year, five have ended in defeat, which would be dire under any circumstances let alone when Australian rugby is as close to broke as anyone dares to admit. The fact that only 43 715 spectators attended last night’s test – close on 10 000 under capacity in the city that supports rugby more feverishly than any other in Australia – bore grim testimony to how deep the crisis has become.
“What’s more, it’s difficult to see where the turnaround will begin. There is no guarantee that it will start next Saturday in Perth when the Wallabies meet Argentina in the battle for the wooden spoon. On the evidence of their spirited display against the All Blacks in Hamilton yesterday, the Pumas will be anything but clawless cats.
“Certainly the Wallabies seemed utterly bereft of ideas out on the field last night and one of the more disturbing elements of this deeply flawed display was a lack of clear direction from the team’s designated elders.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Georgina Robbins was particularly harsh on the Wallaby pack, who were monstered by their opposition.
“There is no point assembling one the best back lines in world rugby if you can't build a platform off which to launch it.
“Not only did the Springboks hold Australia try-less for the first time in 12 years, notch their biggest ever victory in Australia and their first ever at Suncorp Stadium. Their four-try win exposed a costly absence of impact forwards, the Springboks monstering their hosts in the collision to starve the Wallabies of anything resembling momentum.
“The skills were better, the tackles were frequently try-saving, but the Wallabies' grunt up front was missing in action. Sitaleki Timani cannot come into the squad fast enough.”
Timani will join the squad on Monday