VIDEO: Wallabies believe they can threaten All Blacks
REACTION: The Wallabies’ battling win over Argentina has given them belief they can threaten reigning world champions New Zealand in upcoming back-to-back Tests, coach Michael Cheika says.
A week after a disappointing 17-35 Rugby Championship loss to South Africa, Australia dominated the Pumas at the scrum to hold on for a confidence-boosting 16-10 win in Brisbane on Saturday.
With the World Cup in Japan fast approaching, it was a desperately-needed result after just four victories in their previous 14 matches.
Cheika said he was seeing progress and the team was ready to take the next step up against the All Blacks at Perth in a fortnight, before a return clash a week later with the world title-holders in Auckland.
“It’s [going to be] the step that we’re prepared to take,” he said of facing the All Blacks, who were held to a thrilling 16-16 draw by the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday.
“We’re prepared to go up another, I don’t know how many levels it might take, but whatever it is, it’s about whether we want to take a step up and whether we will take a step up to go and compete there.”
The Wallaby defence, which leaked five tries against South Africa, was vastly improved this week as they easily handled the threat from the dangerous Argentine outside backs.
Australia also benefitted from a slick backline with Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano and Kurtley Beale impressive. The only cracks appeared in the final 20 minutes when wholesale changes were made.
Cheika has been keen to use the opening two Rugby Championship games to experiment with combinations and the selection panel’s picks for Perth could signal how he sees his World Cup starting XV shaping up.
“I think anyone that comes in, whether they’ve played games or they haven’t, they’ll be ready to go and try to build on that momentum. We know how difficult that task will be but I really believe in these players,” he said.
“Just the environment they’re creating at the moment amongst themselves… will help them down the line to achieve bigger things than they thought they could earlier on in the year.”
Both sides scored one try each in Brisbane, but three penalties from Lealiifano – back with the Wallabies after fighting off leukaemia – saw them home.
“We earned it, we worked hard,” said Cheika.
“The real blemishes might have been handling. Even with the dewey conditions, we want to hold on to those opportunities more, because we created a heap, especially in that first 50-60 minutes.
“But we built the game. We had the dominance and when we didn’t have the dominance we found a way, either through the defensive line-out, or through our scrum, or a desperation to get back to defend.
“We got ourselves out of a jam a couple of times. That’s a good quality to be able to use.”