McKenzie bullish over chances

Date published: September 26 2013

Australia head coach Ewen McKenzie was bullish on his team's chances of upsetting South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.

Australia head coach Ewen McKenzie was bullish on his team's chances of upsetting the odds against the Boks.

The Wallabies were humbled 38-12 by their South African counterparts in Brisbane three weeks ago, but McKenzie believes his side can turn the tables when the two nations meet again in the Rugby Championship at Newlands this weekend.

“We feel like we are right in the groove for a good performance,” said the coach, speaking at a press conference in Cape Town on Thursday.

McKenzie did concede that the Boks' physicality could cause the Wallabies more problems, but felt the Wallabies were up to the challenge.

“It is a contact sport and that side of the game is always there,” he said.

“You got to be able to impose yourself.

“The Springboks are good at imposing themselves on their opponents – we understand that.

“You have to make sure you are good enough on the day and we are looking forward to that.”

The Australian scrum has long-since been a cause for concern, and it has struggled badly so far in the Championship under the IRB's new directive and engagement sequence.

Though McKenzie is all too aware of those set piece problems, he is unwavering in his belief that his own pack can match the Boks up front.

“We didn't get close to how we wanted to play in the forwards and the backs,” the coach said.

“There is a chance for us to do it much better in this game, so we are looking forward to it.”

The former Reds coach also spoke of his feeling that complacency among South African ranks may help his men to an unlikely victory.

With many anticipating a hefty Springbok win, and a bonus point to keep pace with table-topping New Zealand, McKenzie reckons the Wallabies have all the motivation they need to emerge triumphant.

“All we have read about is how much the Springboks are going to beat us by, we have taken note of that and we are looking forward to the opportunity” he said.

The coach has made several changes to his backline thanks to injuries to Nick Cummins and Jesse Mogg, and the suspension of James O'Connor following another off-field incident.

Those who line up in jerseys nine to fifteen on Saturday offer a greater physical threat to combat the Springbok grunt.

“What we have ended up with was a fairly physically imposing backline,” said the coach.

“We've got some size there and we'll be able to put some pressure on the Boks backline.

“They [South Africa] do what they do well. It is up to teams playing against them to try and change their rhythm and make them to play outside [the game plan] that they prefer.

“We had ideas about that, [but] we did get close last time [the loss in Brisbane].

“We still have ideas about how we might do that. The challenge is for us to make that happen.

“We are looking forward to this Test match and we are looking forward to going out there and trying to knock them out of their rhythm.”

With the Wallabies failing badly in the closing stages in Brisbane, and suffering what became an eventual capitulation, McKenzie has emphasised the need for his more seasoned players to step up from the bench and ensure the side remains competitive.

“If you look at the bench, the experience we can bring off the bench, guys like Genia and Robinson in the second half – we are looking for a stronger finish, there is no question,” he said.

“The last time we played the Boks we were down 12-19 at the 60-minute mark and we dropped the ball in the attacking quarter. If we scored there it would have been 19-all with 20 to go.

“Every game we've had moments where we needed to be stronger, particularly towards the finish of the game, so the fact that we can bring on some of our most experience players in that last part of the game is significant.

“We are looking for a stronger finish.

“Every time we [Australia] have won over here [in South Africa] it has mostly been at the death, 78th minute, 80th, 82nd minute. You got to be there at the death, you got to give yourself a chance.

“We got some very strong and very experienced players coming in who will be able to lift the performance, rather than have the performance fall away.

“We recognise how hard it is to win in South Africa.

“By putting experienced players on the bench it gives us the best way to finish the game.

“It is not about how you start, it is how you finish it.”