By Matt Burke, The Sun Herald
The time for hoping and wishing is over. This is the year the Wallabies can win back the Bledisloe Cup.
In years gone by the Bledisloe series brought with it an air of hope, and sometimes desperation. This year presents itself differently.
To hold aloft the Bledisloe Cup takes a huge amount of skill, determination and desire. But those traits don’t mean you deserve to win. People or teams don’t deserve anything – they have to earn it.
That is an emotion which clouds your judgment on what needs to happen to get an outcome.
You get a finite amount of chances to be successful, it’s what you make of that opportunity that proves you a winner or not.
So why can the Wallabies win?
Ewen McKenzie has had 12 months in charge of this team and developed his own personnel and playing style.
After the humiliating series loss to the British and Irish Lions 12 months ago and the disappointment of the Rugby Championships, something had to change. That change came in the attitude department.
There are talented players in the squad but they weren’t in the right head space, and consequently the results were poor. That aspect of the team DNA has now been corrected.
Seven wins in a row …
It could have been eight if not for a dodgy line call against England, but a seven-game winning streak gives the team confidence.
Four wins from five on the 2013 Spring Tour and a clean sweep over the French in June means there is consistency.
Ah, but they haven’t beaten a southern hemisphere team, you say. Correct.
This is where the test lies, for it will be against a southern hemisphere nation. August 16 will be D-Day in making that number of consecutive wins eight.
Injuries, or lack thereof …
The attrition rate for the Wallabies has not been too bad. Yes, Stephen Moore, Will Genia, David Pocock and Quade Cooper are notable absentees, but the players filling their roles have excelled, showing the increasing depth of the Wallabies.
In previous seasons the team has been decimated, but team selection has been fairly consistent, which is a huge plus.
Waratahs win the Super Rugby final …
In what was a mini-Bledisloe, the Waratahs proved that sticking to a certain style of game will bring results.
The confidence and resilience the team showed under pressure should transfer to the national team through leadership and direction.
You also want players in form, and that’s certainly where the Tahs players are at the moment: in-form and confident.
Remember also when the Reds won in 2011, the Wallabies went on to win the Tri- Nations. Not to mention the win has excited the rugby public again.
Two games in Australia …
If there is ever a chance of cashing in on the Waratahs’ win, it’s leading into week one of the Bledisloe. Same venue, same countries and similar players. More than 61,000 of us graced ANZ Stadium and the call to arms goes out now to get a full house.
The Tahs’ supporters found their voice and helped the boys across the line. Chants of ‘‘New South Wales’’ bellowed around the ground. It’s easy to change that to ‘‘Wallabies’’.
Old heads, X-factors …
You need to get this combination right to win games. You need players playing well and some kind of freakish talent.
Adam Ashley-Cooper is a part of the old brigade but is playing the best footy of his career. The left-foot step and the right-hand fend has been unstoppable.
Wycliff Palu has been devastating around the park, as has James Slipper. The X-factor this season has been the Kurtley Beale-Israel Folau combination. Their intuition can’t be coached and needs to be nurtured.
Finally, the General …
The one who controls it all. I am shovelling responsibility on this man, but I think he can manage.
He led the Tahs from five-eighth, was the top point scorer in Super Rugby and bagged a championship medal by slotting the winning penalty goal in the final. Bernard Foley’s his name.
These are bold statements, considering the stranglehold New Zealand has had on the cup, but there have been significant changes on the landscape since last year’s Rugby Championship and this season will be the year of the Wallabies.
Matthew Burke is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.