There is a good chance that the All Blacks could put Australia away with something to spare this weekend. There are a lot of holes in this current Australian defence. If New Zealand can keep the scrum up and be more accurate with their lineout delivery, then there are a lot of attacking opportunities.
It was hard to be certain what was going on with Australia last Saturday. The selection of the team indicated that they would play a solid, chasing game, kicking for territory and trying to squeeze mistakes from the All Blacks. You do not pick Berrick Barnes, Anthony Fainga’a and Rob Horne and then try to play like Quade Cooper and James O’Connor.
But that is exactly what Australia did, throwing a series of wild passes in their own red zone. Did they imagine they could open up New Zealand with a surprise tactic or were they suckered into it by New Zealand’s defensive pattern.
I was certainly impressed with how New Zealand set up in defence. Their movement in the backfield was superb and offered very littleroom for Genia & Barnes to kick into. They pressed the Aussie midfield and left the space out wide. Australia went for it and came badly undone.
Technically there were deficiencies on both sides. Other than Pocock, the Australian forwards’ body position were poor and they were not getting the shoulder under the opposition chests. Now they don’t even have Pocock. Hooper will add some running game to the attack, but Australia’s back row balance was poor at the weekend.
They may need to find alternative kicking options from the centres and the wings this weekend, because there is not much on for Barnes. Australia will also have to be more imaginative with their use of forward runners. Having the world’s best half back firing long flat passes to forwards in midfield, who are then getting smashed, is not a good use of resources.
If the All Blacks have a good week analytically they will see a lot of opportunities off the set piece. If they can tidy up some of their timing issues, particularly on the offload, then it could be ominous for Australia.
Strangely I saw rather more to be optimistic about in Argentina’s game. It would not shock me at all if they were able to beat South Africa in Mendoza this weekend. The Springboks were very accurate in the first match between the sides and the skills in their mini units were good.
Marcell Coetzee also goes from strength to strength. South Africa’s depth on the flank is extraordinary when you consider Schalk Burger and Juan Smith are both still recovering from injury and Heinrich Brussow was dropped to bring in Coetzee.
But there were a lot of good signs from Argentina. Juan Martin Hernandez is a heck of a player. Sometimes he is too far ahead of the rest of his team. There was the odd inside ball and wide flat pass that his team mates weren’t expecting.
When they get onto his wave length then Argentina will be a big threat, particularly at home. They were not outclassed at the weekend and could certainly beat South Africa.