Cape Times

Confidence levels low for wobbly Wallabies


MELBOURNE: Underwhelm­ing performanc­es from the Wallabies in the June Test window did little to lift the gloom over Australian rugby and doubts look set to follow them into bigger battles ahead, most notably against the All Blacks.

After a disappoint­ing 2016, low profile June internatio­nals against Fiji, Scotland and Italy offered a chance for Michael Cheika’s side to build momentum before facing the southern hemisphere heavyweigh­ts in the Rugby Championsh­ip.

But two error-strewn wins and a loss to Scotland exposed a worrying lack of belief among a group already dealing with uncertaint­y and plummeting Super Rugby form.

“It probably shows where we’re at, probably down on confidence a little bit in that game,” captain Stephen Moore said after a scare in the 40-27 win over 15th-ranked Italy.

The 2015 World Cup finalists have slipped to fourth in world rankings but have plunged deeper in the estimation­s of a frosty fan-base.

Patience is also wearing thin among former players and pundits who see dark times ahead against the world champion All Blacks, who beat a good British and Irish Lions side 30-15 last weekend.

“I’m an optimist and I believe it will all work out some time down the track,” said Andrew Slack, who led the Wallabies on their 1984 Grand Slam tour of Europe and to a series win in New Zealand two years later.

“But I have never been less than confident that we will beat the All Blacks.”

The players now head back to their Super Rugby teams for the last two rounds of the regular season. None have a winning record and none have beat a New Zealand team in 23 attempts this year.

Four of Australia’s five teams will be spectators for the play-offs and either the Rebels or the Force will have played their final game as the 18-team competitio­n contracts to 15 next year.

“All this other stuff that’s a problem for Australian rugby with the fifth team, that’s all adding up,” said Slack of the Super Rugby cull.

“I don’t know how quickly (the Wallabies) can change. I don’t think it’s a matter of them changing; it’s a slow burn everywhere else until we get a foundation from which they can do better work at that top level.” - Reuters

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