Rathbone: Silver lining for those in gold

The Rugby Championship
Clyde Rathbone
by Clyde Rathbone

In the aftermath of a disappointing Super Rugby season and a drubbing at the hands of England the Wallabies still have a chance to make a success of 2016. 

The All Blacks and the Springboks present some of the toughest challenges in Rugby, and the Wallabies will need to make dramatic improvements to regain the Bledisloe Cup and win the Rugby Championship.

And yet this is not beyond the realm of possibility.

One cause for optimism is the influx of foreign based players. The journey to last years Rugby World Cup Final was built on the back of experienced campaigners, some of whom were missing during the England debacle. Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper alone bring 216 test caps into the squad.

This kind of experience can’t be underestimated. Whether producing game changing moments or having quiet words with less experienced teammates, the value add of a few gristly old heads is huge.

Another glimmer of hope can be found in the extra preparation time Michael Cheika has been afforded. With no Australian teams progressing deep into the Super Rugby Finals Cheika will have nearly four invaluable weeks to ready his team.

Given the truncated training camps national players are usually exposed to these few extra weeks could be decisive.

There is the undeniable psychological advantage of entering into the upcoming test matches as undisputed underdogs. No matter how much talk there will be of respecting the Wallabies and of how dangerous they can be on their day, rugby players are human, and it’s likely that both the All Blacks and Springboks (if not the Pumas) will view the Wallabies as an extension of the Super teams they have dominated of late.

Wallabies playing the underdog? Photo: Getty ImagesIt's also worth remembering that turnarounds in sport can emerge from the darkest of corners. I recall being part of the team that put forty-nine unanswered points on South African during the 2006 Tri Nations Championship.

The embarrassment of that defeat brought out the sharpest of knives for Jake White and his players, and persistent calls for a complete clean out of the team and staff never abated until South Africa’s victorious 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Now is the time for calm. A time to put the year to date in the trash can of disappointment and to refocus on the challenge ahead. Though there is an Everest to climb over the coming months the Wallabies are perfectly capable of reaching the summit.

Clyde Rathbone captained South Africa to a Junior Rugby World Cup in 2002 before immigrating to Australia, playing 73 matches with the ACT Brumbies and 26 for the Wallabies. He is co-founder technology of Karma.wiki

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.