Not going anywhere: much as Stephen Moore’s Wallabies found it hard to make ground at the weekend, Ewen McKenzie also had his troops staying put at half-time. Photo: Gallo ImagesThere were no orange pieces but it was definitely old school.
The Wallabies stayed on the field at half-time at Newlands on Sunday, soaking up the fortress atmosphere while the neon scoreboards blinked “23-3” at them from both ends of the stadium.
Coach Ewen McKenzie had been worried about the team’s tendency to fade away in games and wanted to keep his players charged and alert.
He wound the clock back a couple of decades and asked to keep his team on the pitch during the break.
“There are some functional aspects to it but fundamentally our weakness has traditionally been in the second half and I felt we were going into the dressing room and coming out maybe relaxing too much,” McKenzie said.
“I don’t know if it will work forever but I thought it was good given where we were at as a group. It’s not going to win or lose you the game, it’s just about keeping players in the atmosphere of the crowd and the game rather than going inside, going silent, when everyone relaxes and you have to start again.”
It didn’t arrest the slide but it worked to an extent, combining with player substitutions and a new game plan to produce the first occasion in the match that the Wallabies looked competitive with the Springboks.
McKenzie said they will use the same approach this weekend against Los Pumas in Rosario, when Australia faces a team famed for emotion-driven performances at home.
“It’s a soccer stadium, so inevitably the dressing room is four levels up and a three minute walk into a tunnel. You take the three minutes to go in and the three minutes to get back and most of your half-time is gone,” McKenzie said.
“We were doing it [in rugby] for maybe 100 years and it’s only in the last 10 or 20 we’ve gone inside. AFL does it at three-quarter time. I enjoyed being out there, we stayed in the atmosphere, guys could hit pads and do different things.”
McKenzie is digging deep for things that will help a struggling squad gel and build belief.
“Rugby’s a chaotic game … as it happened the Springboks came out and did things they hadn’t done before and we want to have the flexibility to be able to play with surprise too,” he said.
“The kick-run balance is really important because you can be shifting it one way and the other and then you’ve got some little tricks that you can keep up your sleeve. We’ve got some good guys at that, some of the best exponents of it, but at the moment we’re oscillating a bit too much, we need to centre our thinking a bit.”
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