Rugby opinion: To bee stung or be square

By Anendra Singh

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Israel Dagg
Israel Dagg

Simply stand still and the bee will do its thing before buzzing off to serve its queen.

That is the drift from Crowd Goes Wild presenter Mark Richardson for Japan tennis professional Kimiko Date-Krumm at the US Open tennis, and anyone else who cares, after a bee pursued her.

Forget everyone else but I somehow get the horrible feeling the Wallabies won't be taking that advice on board in a hurry after the All Blacks stung them into humiliation last Saturday night.

Metaphorically speaking, Ewen McKenzie and the Wallabies did the stand-still thing to their detriment in their 51-20 drubbing at Eden Park, Auckland.

But is the rugby world order mangled beyond repair now?

The doom-and-gloom merchants will argue it is but I beg to differ.

Before the first test I said it was the coaches' game and that hasn't changed.

If the Aussies are to find parity with the ABs then the third test in Brisbane will offer that platform, even though their Bledisloe Cup dreams are over.

You see, Steve Hansen and Co were also stung in the first test.

Sticking to the bee analogy, the ABs coaching stable responded, through injury or otherwise, with a few tweaks and ridding themselves of any flowers requiring pollination.

Conversely, McKenzie and Co took the Sydney stalemate on its face value and embraced a "she'll-be-all-right" approach.

Winning away from home was always going to be hard for the Ockers but did McKenzie think his XV in the first test had shown enough mettle?

It seems he ominously did because "Link" didn't fiddle with his line-up when everything suggested they were far from sublime.

The Wallabies should have won the opener, considering the ABs played 60 minutes of the test with 14 men.

Changes were imperative. Besides, the inclement weather that had dictated terms in Sydney wasn't a factor at Eden Park.

Take a step back and you realise what the difference is between the ABs and the Aussies in both tests.

In both clashes, the ABs lost two players but the hosts failed to capitalise. They either kicked away valuable possession or took the wrong options.

In the second test, ABs captain Richie McCaw rightly got his marching orders to the naughty chair but in that 10 minutes it made little difference to the opposition's score. Substitute prop Ben Frank's late ejection didn't have a bearing because the carnage was irreparable by then.

In fact, captain Michael Hooper's men added three points but McCaw's sin bin stung the ABs into a 9-6 lead.

Take a bow heir apparent Kieran Read who obviously slowed the game down to starve the Aussies of possession and momentum in that spell.

Seconds before McCaw returned, French referee Romain Poite banished Wallaby lock Rob Simmons to the sin bin for lifting a leg in a ruck.

The ABs juggernaut made the visitors pay with two tries.

Halfback Nic White was way short of a gallop in the opener and while the Brumbies player showed a bit more urgency at Eden Park he certainly wasn't the total package.

White was lucky to escape a sin bin but so was ABs prop Owen Franks for a stiff-arm shot to an Aussie head.

The Wallaby scrum wasn't purring like a Lamborghini anyway but when a spark plug was yanked in the mould of Simmons it started skidding like a car without chains on a snow-dusted highway.

No 8 Wycliff Palu looked average but one could argue so did Simmons, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter and Sekope Kepu.

Is it a case of ineptitude among individuals or are they purely victims of a sum of poorly constructed parts?

That, my friends, is where the "Missing Link" must kick in with some assertiveness.

McKenzie has to reshuffle his cards in the next two Rugby Championship tests against the Springboks and the Pumas to tinker with the engine.

No grunt under the bonnet means the backline will be left choking in toxic fumes.

The pollen-peppered pretty boys who entice bees also desperately need tailoring.

They need some of that Will Genia attitude from the base, something Nick Phipps brought sporadically from the bench.

Wingers Rob Horne and Pat McCabe were, yet again, conspicuous in their absence.

Second five-eighth Matt Toomua tackled well but that was about it. His kicking left little to be desired.

As good as Adam Ashley-Cooper is, he will want to forget the second test in a hurry.

However, the centre is too classy to leave out and that game has to go down as an aberration.

Fullback Israel Folau and first five-eighth Kurtley Beale won't make rugby manuals anytime soon but who's going to light their fuse so they can go all the way?

The broken-play pair's dysfunctional existence reminds me of how bereft of ideas the ABs were with Walter Little in the yesteryear.

Should Beale be at 10, 11, 12 or 15?

Should Folau remain fullback or go to the wing?

Where does McKenzie see Tevita Kuridrani fit in the jigsaw before fellow Fijian winger Henry Speight becomes available?

At 102kg Kuridrani has to slot in there at the expense of Toomua, if his few minutes off the bench were anything to go by.

The ABs were ruthless and clinical although their ill-discipline will prove costly sooner or later.

Hansen's tweaks are far from over.

Is Ryan Crotty a "natural" in the midfield or does the return of centre Conrad Smith provide a modicum of stability that anyone can thrive on?

No doubt Ma'a Nonu's return will put that thought on the backburner.

Is Malakai Fekitoa suffering from stage fright or has he been told to "go out there and do the basics"?

He is anything but a basics exponent and the sooner players like him take the field the more rugby will prosper as a spectacle.

The other burning question is has winger Cory Jane done enough?

If not then it's time for Hawke's Bay Magpie Israel Dagg to dazzle us again.

It'll be interesting to see where Magpies coach Craig Philpott injects him in the Ranfurly Shield match against Counties-Manukau in Pukekohe on Saturday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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