Wallabies veteran Drew Mitchell has backed Dane Haylett-Petty to rebound from a disappointing Bledisloe series.
The Toulon winger could be lining up alongside his former Force teammate in this weekend's Test, after making it through the Wallabies' most brutal training day on Tuesday.
Haylett-Petty was caught one-out in both Bledisloe Tests missing nine tackles across the two games, beaten by oncoming All Blacks player in crucial moments that led to tries, but Mitchell said the 27-year-old should not shoulder the sole responsibility for that.
“He played more of his footy this year at fullback but I think he's been great any time he's had the opportunity," he said.
“I think probably collectively, not just Dane, just collectively we've fallen short a little bit on our system in defence.
“I guess sometimes it's highlighted a little bit more on the end of the line because it's easier to see.”
“I think Dane's been playing really well any time he's had the ball and he's also made some really good reads in defence, so I don't think, I think he's alright.
Mitchell said if the Springboks were to target him like the All Blacks did, the Force fullback would show his resilience.
“I think if they target him it's great because he'll bounce back and show what we all know that he's capable of,” he said.
Mitchell has become one of the elder statesmen of the team, especially since the departure of Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper back to France but said he wasn’t trying to impose his influence on the group.
“It's important for those [younger] guys to go out there and back themselves and what they've done and they're in this Wallabies jersey for a reason and we want them to go out there and play the way that they had been playing to get into this situation,” he said.
“It’s more about just putting everything aside and focusing on what's important, really, and if we can do that then we should go alright.”
The Wallabies’ defence has been a major concern in recent Tests, with the backline especially struggling to make it to their defensive spots as they shift between attack and defence.
Mitchell said structures were not the problem, with a tendency for players to move away from things they’ve trained when under pressure.
“Sometimes I think in rugby if you get out there and you're presented with something that you're perhaps not expecting or if it's not working the first few times, then maybe guys start to stray away from that.
“It's more just about having faith in that structure and the things that we've been doing at training in the 80 minutes and really just being disciplined to stay to it.
“I'm sure if we do that the pressure will end up, or the momentum will end up shifting our way and we'll get the result we want. It's more about staying disciplined to the structure for a longer period of time.”
Centre Samu Kerevi said there was no confusion about the system, rather the players had to ensure they filled their roles.
“I think we just swapped around with a couple changes,” he said.
“We've just got to know our role in defence.
“At the end of the day, it's about us making our tackles and making the right reads.
“It's something we've worked on and are excited to use this weekend.”
The Qantas Wallabies take on the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Buy tickets here.