The Wallabies must beat the All Blacks in Sydney if they are to have any chance at being a credible threat to retake the Bledisloe Cup in 2017.
Perhaps the one saving grace for Michael Cheika’s side is that they don’t have to play at Eden Park on the New Zealand leg of their three-match series against the All Blacks.
This year, Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin will be the venue for the traditional week after rematch. But, the Wallabies need to firstly, focus on getting the job done in Sydney.
If they can’t beat the All Blacks first up, the task of retaking the Bledisloe Cup will become that much more unlikely. Why? Because the All Blacks just don’t lose to the Wallabies at home – regardless of if the match takes place at fortress Eden Park or not.
The last time the Wallabies won a game against the All Blacks in New Zealand was all the way back on August 11, 2001. To put that into perspective, that’s a whole 16 years ago.
Are The Wallabies A Credible Threat To The All Blacks?
There is nothing about this current Wallabies side that suggests this long-standing trend will change in season 2017. Also, the Wallabies failed to take advantage of a All Blacks side transitioning into a new era last year (post Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, and Ma’a Nonu).
Really, when it came to playing the All Blacks in 2017, the Wallabies were awful at best. The moment that they did show some heart was when it was all to late, and ironically, with a far less experienced side in that final Test at Eden Park.
The Wallabies are themselves going through a slight change. Michael Hooper was suddenly named captain of the side, but the state of the game in Australia is also under immense scrutiny right now. Whether Cheika or anyone else in his side admits it or not; this has also got to be a factor.
If things are to change, the Wallabies must win in front of their home fans at ANZ Stadium this Saturday night. Because really, Wallabies success is all that can help at this point in time; much of everything else that’s happened in 2017 has been a failure.
Many of the harshest critics of Cheika have said that the culture within the Wallabies squad is wrong. Some of those critics have lamented the lack in clarity over roles in the team, approaches to training, and behaviour issues off the field.
Just this week, Kurtley Beale (a major part of the teams attacking structure) has trained in segregation from the rest of the squad. Cheika says this is to nurse an injury and to “ease Beale into the process” after shortly returning from the UK.
Critics may not matter to Cheika, and he is also a man that clearly backs his approach, but if the Wallabies lose to the All Blacks again, ultimately it lands on him.
Wallabies Must Beat The All Blacks In Sydney
So, with all that said, can the Wallabies beat the All Blacks this weekend and take a crucial leg up?
Of course, the All Blacks aren’t unbeatable, not by any stretch of the imagination.
The Wallabies traditionally take the game to the All Blacks early, but they’ve simply been unable to finish off in the last quarter. That trend may likely continue in 2017, but it’s hardly a Wallabies-only problem. Cheika needs to take a lot of inspiration from what the British and Irish Lions did to the All Blacks in June.
The Wallabies preparation, set-play plans, and confidence will be as polished as it ever has. No one can question that. Execution, staying calm on the field, and scoring tries (rather than settling for penalties) will be key to the Wallabies chances.
It really is a case of a must win in Sydney – and don’t the Wallabies know it. Disagree? Just look at the history books. The All Blacks don’t lose two in a row.
“Main photo credit”