Wallabies vs Springboks: Five things we learned

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies have snapped a four-Test losing streak in Brisbane.

What are we talking about after that clash?

1. Wallabies win relieves pressure

The Wallabies snapped a four-Test losing streak at Suncorp Stadim and took a whole heap of heat off them at the same time.

A fortnight ago Michael Cheika's future was under intense public scrutiny and while this may not turn those voices off completely, it was a game they simply had to win.

That it came without three of their regular starters should inject some confidence into this team as well that they can complete the job against the odds.

A gritty victory over the Springboks doesn't wipe away the disappointment of another Bledisloe series loss but it was a win nonetheless.

2. Toomua-Beale combo to get another go

Michael Cheika is going to have some interesting decisions to make ahead of the Wallabies’ clash with Argentina next week, starting with his inside backs.

While the new Beale-Toomua combination as a whole wasn't seamless, Matt Toomua certainly did enough to demand another start and that adds to Beale's case to remain at starting 10.

Toomua was impressive in defence as much as he was in attack and added some stability in that inside centre spot.

If Israel Folau is fit next week, you’d expect him to go straight into the fullback spot and that probably adds weight to the school of thought that Cheika would stick with this pairing for next week.

The Wallabies coach admitted as much after the match, praising the duo for their performances in Brisbane but also had plenty of positive feedback for replacement 10 Bernard Foley, who joined them on the pitch in the back end of the game.

3. Pocock, Coleman losses force others to find grit

The Wallabies lacked grunt against the Springboks, especially in the first 60 minutes on Saturday night and it's no coincidence that came in a game where they were missing two of their most abrasive players.

That the Wallabies won three turnovers against South Africa and Pocock had four on his own in Auckland shows what they were missing at Suncorp while Coleman is often pointed to as the man who sets the physical tone for the side.

It took a little time but the Wallabies turned up the physicality in the pairs' absence and showed they have some ticker.

Michael Hooper, Lukhan Tui and Matt Toomua bore the brunt of the defensive workload with 10 tackles each and each of those contributions was pivotal for Australia.

That this team managed to hold out the Springboks for the final five minutes of a match and steal a final intercept to clinch the win is somewhat of a tick for their character that has been derided after All Blacks demolition jobs.

4. Tupou a game changer, Polota-Nau feels the heat

You can’t help but wonder what might have transpired in the Wallabies scrum had Taniela Tupou been fit for the two Bledisloe Cup Tests.

The 22-year-old was a game changer on Saturday night when he came on in the 47th minute and it's something that is becoming a trend.

He was injected into the game against their usual first-choice props and almost immediately got one up on Tendai Mtawarira.

He won the penalty that gave the Wallabies some breathing space late in the piece in arguably his strongest indication yet that he could start.

Michael Cheika was coy on that post-match, suggesting there was more improvement yet to come in Tupou after just five Tests to his name.

On the flipside, starting hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau looked like he felt the weight of a round-the-world trip when he came off at the half-hour mark.

He played half an hour for Leicester last Saturday and was back in Australia Monday, straight into Test preparations. 

The rake struggled to keep pace in Brisbane and looked exhausted when he was replaced in the 31st minute and though he came back on in the 72nd, still has some improvement to go on his match fitness.

5. Springboks becoming a tough sell in Brisbane

Suncorp Stadium has been one of the happiest hunting grounds for the Wallabies but the fortress couldn’t attract a particularly heaving crowd on Saturday night.

The official number given was 27,849 on Saturday night, just 700 more than the crowd that watched the Wallabies take on Italy in June last year.

In 2016, the Wallabies-Springboks clash attracted 30,327, 2015’s version drew 37,633 and a crowd of 43,715 watched the two teams go at it in 2013.

A 45,000-strong crowd for the third Bledisloe last year and 46,273 for Ireland in June showed that there is still an appetite for rugby in Queensland.

The mix of Wallabies disappointment since June and a hint of Springboks fatigue could be factors in that decline after six Tests between the sides at Suncorp in the past 10 years.