Heat will be on if ABs just so-so

Sam Cane leads the All Blacks out in Wellington. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Cane leads the All Blacks out in Wellington. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks just have to look in the mirror to see who can make a difference this week. But is it that simple? Rugby writer Steve Hepburn ponders what happened last Sunday and what needs to happen this Sunday.

Over the past 17 years, the All Blacks have been, more or less, too good for the Wallabies. But was it a simple case of time and again the All Blacks playing well and the Wallabies’ own incompetence knee-capping them? The Australians made mistake after mistake in most Bledisloe Cup tests. Made it far too easy for the men in black who seized on these stuff-ups.

The simplest way to be more competitive in games is to cut out those easy mistakes. Unforced errors they call them in tennis. Australia did not make many errors last Sunday in Wellington and that is why they were in the contest for the whole 80-plus minutes

You can blame the 24-hour news cycle and too many of the uneducated getting into the game. But is it not tiring going back to Sunday’s game and lamenting what the referee got wrong and how all these infringements were missed? The way of the sport — which has to be upheld — is to accept the decisions made by the referee in the heat of the moment and just move on. Perhaps Rieko Ioane did score, perhaps the Australians were offside near the end. It is all conjecture. The game is amazingly hard to referee so the whistle-carriers are going to get things wrong. A good enough team — and the supporters — just accepts the calls and still plays well enough to win.

This is not Super Rugby. So forget about getting any cheap points and easy metres. The gaps are not there and everyone has to be accurate in everything they do. If not, trouble will come. Super Rugby is a good testing ground for players. Some will take the step up to the next level. Some will not. They soon get exposed.

The Australians did not have to look far for motivation. Stuck in a hotel for Christchurch for two weeks. Told by New Zealand its Super Rugby teams were not up to it. Coming off a poor World Cup. It would not have been hard to get up for this game. Throw in a new coaching group and the enterprise of youth and there was no surprise the Australians played as well as they did.

But it is is a whole new ball game in Auckland on Sunday. Expect the All Blacks to come back with plenty of vigour and power. Another average effort from the men in black and the questions will get even stronger. And that is the only way it should be.

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