Pressure the key to Aussies' improvement: Kafer

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Pressure is Australia’s downfall when it comes to trying to conquer the Kiwis, Rod Kafer says.

Former Wallaby Kafer, who is heading up a new national coaching development plan including the creation of a national advisory panel, said Australia’s lopsided record against New Zealand was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

No Aussie side has bested a New Zealand team since May last year when the Waratahs beat the Chiefs and it was a year earlier that they were the most recent team to win in New Zealand.

Australian skills fall down under pressure, Kafer said, in part because of the cycle of doubt created by the past.

“I think there’s absolutely a technical component around how we’re playing the game,” he said.

“It manifests itself in some of the mental issues we’ve had. We’ve become accustomed to, and it’s not a criticism it’s just what happens, we start to self-perpetuate this idea that it's difficult to beat New Zealand teams.

“Everybody talks about it - in the media we all talk about how tough it is and it starts to leach into players and the way they perform and they feel that pressure.

“When we feel pressure, our skills start to break down.

"When our skills start to break down we drop the ball, miss tackles and we lose matches.

“We’ve got to increase our capacity to deal with pressure and to deliver skills under pressure - that’s reflected in how we train, how we play, how we prepare for games and the mental approach in terms of changing the mindset from being a close loss to a close win.”

Kafer wants every rugby fan to be able to identify what ‘Australian rugby’ means, and his new coaching development role is to help establish that definition.

Kafer said Australia’s glory days in rugby could be identified by the recognition of a unified approach to rugby.

“We need to establish in Australia a concept of a unity of purpose, what it is we’re about, (so) when somebody looks at an Australian team play, they can immediately identify it.

“At the moment I don’t think we’ve got that, we’ve seen it in parts but I don’t think we’ve got it.

“When Australia was great, we recognised that there was a team who were innovative, they were thoughtful, they were prepared to bring something a little bit different. They’re the qualities that many people regard Australian rugby as having and we played a running game of rugby.

"Is that still relevant today? We have to determine what’s the right mechanism for the game at the moment."

The former Wallaby rejected the notion that all Australian teams would need to play exactly the same way to fit that identity, though.

ARU high performance manager Ben Whitaker said part of that was working with all levels of coaches, who might be disconnected.