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Player ratings: Wobbly Wallabies

OPINION: The Wallabies’ new era under coach Eddie Jones has begun with a disappointing 12-43 loss to defending world champions South Africa at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

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Australian wing Marika Koroibete opened the scoring with a try in the sixth minute, but it was all the Springboks from there.

Replacement Carter Gordon did score a try on debut, but with time on the clock, the length-of-the-field effort was never going to trouble the hosts.

Finn Morton rates the Wallabies:

15 – Tom Wright – 7/10
Fullback Tom Wright set up wing Marika Koroibete for an early try, and for Wallabies fans who woke up early on Sunday morning [Australian time], they would’ve hoped that this was a sign of things to come. While Wright continued to work hard, eventually finishing with almost 70 running metres, the Springboks ran away it shortly after.

But Wright was solid out the back, and could very well make that No.15 jersey his own throughout the Rugby Championship.

14 – Suliasi Vunivalu – 2
If you read my prediction piece earlier this week in the lead-up to the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship opener, you’ll know that I had high hopes for Suliasi Vunivalu. The former NRL star failed to fire under Dave Rennie, and at the Super Rugby level under former All Black Brad Thorn, but Eddie Jones was supposed to be different.

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At least so far, after one start in Wallaby gold, Vunivalu looked anything but settled in Test rugby. Vunivalu was penalised at least three times against the Springboks and was caught out of position each time Kurt-Lee Arendse crossed for one of his three tries. Later on, with just over 10 minutes to go, Vunivalu was shown a yellow card and gave away a penalty try for an intentional knockdown.

Time is running out before the World Cup, so the Wallabies may have no choice but to recall Mark Nawaqanitawase for next weekend’s clash with Los Pumas in Sydney.

13 – Len Ikitau – 7
Len Ikitau is a defensive centre – that’s how he makes his mark on Test matches. Even when the going got tough for the Wallabies, Ikitau stood out with 13 tackles.

12 – Reece Hodge – 4
Thrust into the starting side at inside centre this week, with Samu Kerevi named on the bench, Australia’s ‘Mr Fix It’ had quite a frustrating night. Hodge failed to fire alongside his teammates as the valiant Springboks began to develop some momentum. By the time he was replaced, the Bayonne-bound Hodge hadn’t run the ball.

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Hodge also struggled off the kicking tee. With time up on the clock, the No. 12 attempted an ambitious 66-metre attempt from well inside his own half. The Australian struck it well, as he often does, but the attempt fell short – leaving Hodge with an 0-3 kicking record going into half-time. That somewhat summed up his night, and Hodge was eventually replaced early in the second term.

11 – Marika Koroibete – 7.5
It was a game of two halves from world-class wing Marika Koroibete. Koroibete started the match with a monstrous tackle on Canan Moodie – sending the Springboks wing into next week with a perfectly timed tackle. Shortly after, Koroibete showed a clean pair of heels as he beat the covering defence to the tryline – scoring the opening try of the match.

But in the second half, Koroibete barely got the ball. The wing finished with a team-high 72 running metres though, and will continue to play a crucial role in the Wallabies’ attack throughout the rest of the Rugby Championship.

10 -Quade Cooper – 5.5
Back in Wallaby gold, flyhalf Quade Cooper was far from his best. Cooper was far too ineffective for the chief playmaker of a national team as he went missing for periods of the contest. While the No.10 did kick well at times, it ultimately just handed possession back to the Springboks.

9 – Nic White – 7
The Wallabies would’ve had an even tougher night if veteran Nic White didn’t take the field at Loftus Versfeld. White looked cool, calm and collected in the No. 9 jersey once again – and was especially impressive as a result of his kicking game.

But when the team is struggling to stay in the game, the scrumhalf is going to have a tough night as well. Yes, Wallabies fans have every right to be disappointed after that performance, but White did what was asked of him and deserves some recognition for his efforts.

1 – James Slipper – 6.5
The Wallabies co-captain didn’t go down without a fight. To use another boxing analogy, the prop refused to throw in the towel, even when the going got tough against an increasingly confident Springboks outfit.

Packing down against a heavier front row, Slipper and the Wallabies struggled to maintain some consistency. They certainly weren’t dominant, that’s for sure. Slipper worked hard to make amends in defence though, as he finished with 13 tackles.

2 – David Porecki – 6.5
It was a tough night for every Wallaby in Pretoria, there’s no hiding from that. While David Porecki showed glimpses of promise, it was, in reflection, a tough night for the No.2 as well. But starting with the positive, Porecki was quite accurate at the set-piece. The Waratahs hooker only missed one of his nine attempts at the line-out and also made his mark in defence with 10 tackles.

But poor discipline cost Porecki, and it cost the Wallabies as a collective. He was sent to the sin bin early in the second half and was replaced later on.

3 – Allan Alaalatoa – 5.5
Running off the field in the 64th minute, veteran Allan Alaalatoa looked tired – gassed after a tough shift against the reigning world champions. For a player who has a history of high performance in the international arena, Saturday’s Test was quite a disappointing outing in comparison.

Alaalatoa was outmuscled at the scrum but did work hard around the field of play. In the end, the loosehead finished with eight stops on the defensive side of the ball. Alaalatoa is better than that, and will likely bounce back next weekend in Sydney.

4 – Nick Frost – 6
Like many of his teammates, lock Nick Frost worked hard around the field of play – but his efforts were somewhat in vain. The Wallabies couldn’t get anything going, and nor could Frost and the rest of the Australian tight five.

5 – Will Skelton – 7.5
On a disappointing night at Loftus Versfeld, La Rochelle lock Will Skelton was, at times, a shining light for the Wallabies. Skelton was impossible to miss – both due to his impact and noticeable size – as he worked tirelessly around the park.

Skelton ran with purpose and intent every time he touched the ball, and also made an impact on the defensive side of the ball and around the breakdown. The lock won a turnover in the 29th minute and had made the equal-most tackles out of any player at half-time. The Wallaby was replaced for debutant Richie Arnold about 15 minutes into the second term.

6 – Tom Hooper – 2
With only 24 games of Super Rugby experience to his name, Tom Hooper was quite a surprising selection in Eddie Jones’ side to open their Rugby Championship campaign in South Africa. Coming up against the defending World Cup champions on their home deck, the 22-year-old was named to start at blindside flank. This was a gamble from coach Jones – and it’s one that didn’t pay off, unfortunately.

After entering the fray of international rugby for the first time, Hooper couldn’t match the intensity and rapid pace of the game. Hooper missed a couple of key tackles – one each in consecutive phases – in the lead-up to Kurt-Lee Arendse’s first try of the night. The flank was beaten a couple of minutes later as well, with Boks flyhalf Manie Libbok running past him with ease.

Hooper, who only made three tackles on debut, was replaced by experienced loose forward Pete Samu after about 30 minutes.

7 – Michael Hooper – 6.5
For practically the entirety of Michael Hooper’s career, at both Super Rugby and Test level, fans and pundits have weighed the impact of the flank’s work rate and his lack of size. It’s a factor, especially in the increasingly physical international game.

Hooper was found out a bit against the Springboks, but never gave up. The Wallabies co-captain finished in double-digits for tackles made and also did what he could to contribute on the other side of the ball. Hooper is better than this though, and will be eager to bounce back against Argentina.

8 – Rob Valetini – 7.5
Rob Valetini is a world-class loose forward, and the No.8 will continue to play a key role for the Wallabies throughout the rest of the Rugby Championship and beyond. During a tough night in Pretoria, Valetini showed glimpses of promise. The loose forward ran for more than 20 metres – the most of any Australian forward – and was also among the leaders for tackles made.

Replacements:

16 – Jordan Uelese – 5.5

17 – Matt Gibbon – 4.5

18 – Zane Nonggorr – 5

19 – Richie Arnold – 6.5

20 – Pete Samu – 5.5

21 – Tate McDermott – 5

22 – Samu Kerevi – 6

23 – Carter Gordon – 7
Scored a try on his international debut and generally looked solid.

By Finn Morton, @RugbyPass

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