There are no “silver bullets” for the Wallabies’ woes and Ewen McKenzie knows it.
He cannot cull half his starting side and reach for shiny new players after the their demoralising 28-8 loss in Cape Town at the weekend.
He has to get more out of the squad he has assembled and, most importantly, coax them back to confidence after a horror Rugby Championship campaign.
“What I did say in the dressing room [after Sunday’s game] is that the solutions to our problems are in the dressing room, right there,” McKenzie said. “Getting the right mix of players and getting the right game mix is still our challenge and the answers are in the room.
“Tell me who the other people are who are going to break the game open and give us the silver bullets. I think we’ve got the best group of players here, in the squad. There are a few others around the edges who could be here if we had a bigger squad, but fundamentally we have the best guys available.
“There’s a good chance we’ll spend the week sorting out a way to get it done.”
McKenzie would not be drawn on the selection of his starting halfback against Argentina in Rosario this weekend.
Nic White had a difficult night at Newlands, failing to tweak the team’s original kick-first strategy when it appeared more running was needed.
His half-time replacement, Will Genia, made an immediate difference, leading the Wallabies’ improved second-half effort with his trademark running game.
But McKenzie defended White and appeared to signal he would continue to select his starting halfback based on tactics along with form.
“Clearly if we’re playing running footy Will’s our best exponent, [and if it is a] kicking game, Whitey is our best exponent, it depends on how you want to pitch the game,” he said.
“We probably didn’t get the result we wanted but in terms of just being an out and out kicker I haven’t seen anyone better [than White] in terms of power and distance.”
He did not rule out starting Genia but stood by his decision to drop a player who has long been considered one of the best No.9s in the world.
“Everyone knows the capability of Will, I know him better than anyone, I coached him since he was 21, so I know exactly where he is,” McKenzie said.
“You’ve got to make decisions based on what’s going at that point in time. We made changes because we weren’t happy with where we are. We’re still not happy with where we are, we’re still going to keep looking at what the best mix is. No one’s in or out.”
McKenzie praised the contributions of replacement blindside flanker Ben McCalman and starting outside centre Tevita Kuridrani, as well as the impact made by returning forwards Benn Robinson and Sitaleki Timani. Expect more selections designed to use experienced Test players at the back halves of games.
But it appears confidence is emerging as the Wallabies soft underbelly, six losses into a difficult season. The road becomes tougher each week; Argentina at home is an entirely different proposition to the team Australia held out in Perth.
A third Bledisloe Test looms on the horizon before the squad heads north for five weeks in Europe.
Tests against England, Ireland and Wales were always going to be tough. But if the past few weeks’ results become the norm this year, Scotland and Italy become potential death traps too.
“You try to get it right but you don’t get any easy games,” McKenzie said.
“You’re not out there blowing the cobwebs away, you’re actually playing the best players and teams that are in top form. But from all that, from adversity, you’ll find a way out.”
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