Thursday’s Rugby news sees the Wallabies return to Eden Park, as they look to get their hands on the Bledisloe Cup, meanwhile the Springboks are yet to make a decision on the Rugby Championship, and the Shute Shield gears up for preliminary finals.
Breaking the hoodoo
On Sunday the Wallabies will face one of their biggest challenges in the modern era when they attempt to beat the All Blacks in Eden Park for the first time in 34 years.
The Wallabies haven’t won since 1986, but are buoyed by last weekend’s thrilling 16-16 draw in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington.
Former Test centre Daniel Herbert believes the Wallabies can break the Eden Park hoodoo.
“If you ask (then Wallabies captain) Andrew Slack what his guys did in 1986, I don’t think there’s anything different to what they did in that game to many others. They just got it right on the day.
“Our guys now have just got to get it right on the day.”
In saying that, Herbert is under no illusion about the tenacity of the All Blacks, and agrees the Wallabies need to be wary of a backlash.
“We’ve had a few false dawns in the past so you just hope they back it up this week but they played with a hell of a lot of commitment, and they showed they’re fit.
“New Zealand will be better this week. They won’t take too kindly to that result, but our guys have lot of potential as well, and you’d like to think Australia has a lot of improvement in them as well.”
Incredibly, no current Wallaby was alive the last time the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks at Eden Park.
With a near-capacity crowd of 47,000 expected for Sunday’s second clash, the Wallabies are walking into a potential bear-trap, with Trans-Tasman hostilities at an all-time high.
Journalist from both countries have been stoking the fires, with players even throwing some cheeky barbs in the lead-up to this fiery clash.
Room to improve
The Wallabies are looking to lift their performance against the All Blacks, with many players of the belief that the team can go to another level.
Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa rated last weekend’s performance “probably a six” out of 10, reflecting the sentiment around the team that they have plenty to offer on the international stage, after a change in perception instilled in them by new coach Dave Rennie.
“The initial feeling when we walked into the change room was disappointment and I think that’s set the tone for us this week,” Alaalatoa said. “The boys probably weren’t pleased with not coming away with the win and that attitude has been taken into this week in the way we apply ourselves.
“Little things hurt us, especially our breakdown, and some areas in our set-piece where we can continue to be better and more clinical at. That’s definitely areas we’ve addressed yesterday in our review and we’re working hard at towards this week.”
The team can not afford to go off the boil like they did last year, when the All Blacks hammered the Wallabies at Eden Park after being shown up in Perth. Whether its lip service or genuine belief, the Wallabies are keen to show that last weekend’s result was no flash in the pan, and are looking at combatting the All Blacks typical retaliation following a surprise result.
“That’s definitely something we expect from them [for the All Blacks to bounce back], especially going off the last couple of years,” Alaalatoa said. “That’s something we have addressed already, so the best thing about last week has been we get to look at our learnings, understand where we could be better and how we can be better and make sure we apply that throughout this week. We want to go out there with more intent than we did last weekend.”
Following the game, the All Blacks have been roasted by supporters and the media, and have been extremely critical of their own performance, with hooker Dane Coles stating the All Blacks forwards were “parking up having a holiday.”
What changes, if any, should Dave Rennie make to side for this crucial clash?
Another day, another report out of South Africa about the Springboks participation in the Rugby Championship.
It has been revealed that the world champions will not fly to Australia as expected this weekend, casting further doubt that the team will make their first fixture on 7 November, and suggests they may not compete in the tournament at all.
The SARU has not yet confirmed they will even come to Australia, and SANZAAR has imposed a Friday deadline on South Africa to confirm whether they will play.
“The SANZAAR member unions have agreed to provide South Africa Rugby with an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions,” said a SANZAAR statement.
“This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia. SANZAAR will provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in The Rugby Championship when available in the coming days.”
South Africa has expressed concerns about sending the Springboks over, citing concerns over about player welfare. Are we buying that rhetoric?
Tournament organisers are now scrambling to come up with a solution should the Boks pull out.
SANZAAR has already moved the Australia and New Zealand Test forward to 31 October, but are hopeful that the Springboks will join the tournament, with the belief that the financial blow to not only SARU but other unions will be enough of a motivating factor to compete, with tens of millions of dollars on the line in the form of broadcast dollars.
After a thrilling final round to Shute Shield’s regular season, the preliminary finals have now been determined.
Northern Suburbs take on Sydney Uni at their adopted home ground at Pittwater Rugby Park at 1.55pm in the first game of a double-header on Saturday. Norths are one of the form teams in 2020, but suffered a surprise loss last weekend at the hands of the Rats, and are up against last years defending champions.
Norths finished just ahead of Uni on the table, but the Students were one of just three teams to take a win off Northern Suburbs this season, winning 34 to 15 in round 12.
Later that arvo, minor premiers Gordon take on a Galloping Greens side still smarting from a heavy loss from Easts last round.
Gordon finished with an 11-1 win loss record to finish the season, a remarkable improvement from last year.
Both sides will be looking to push through the finals, with neither side making the play-offs in 2019.
The odds are stacked against Randwick if their regular season form is anything to go by, with Gordon thrashing them 42-15 in round eight.
On Sunday, Easts Suburbs go up against Eastwood at 4pm.
The last time these teams met, Eastwood ran out 20-17 winners in round 4.
Easts hit their strides in the second half of the season after a number of Super Rugby players rejoined the squad.
They met in the preliminary final last year, with Eastwood beating the Beasties 24-21.