Australia's Ewen McKenzie optimistic ahead of Springboks rematch
Australia coach believes beleaguered squad are making progress, brushes off scrum issues
Ewen McKenzie has not had the start he wanted in his first 10 weeks as Australia coach but, rejecting any talk of crisis, the former test prop is busy plotting a first win over South Africa in Cape Town in two decades.
McKenzie's appointment in the wake of the British & Irish Lions series defeat provoked a wave of optimism in Australia but that was quickly dissipated by two defeats at the hands of New Zealand and a humbling 38-12 home loss to the Springboks.
After finally eking out the first win of his reign, by a single point against Argentina in Perth last week, the Wallabies now face one of the toughest road trips in rugby - a jaunt to South Africa followed by a re-match with the Pumas in Rosario.
Troubles with the scrum under the new laws have only been the most obvious of the problems for a team that has shipped 13 tries in its four Rugby Championship tests but McKenzie was in no mood for crisis talk after announcing his squad for the tour.
"You can get bogged down in how people want to describe things. I want to see progress," he said yesterday. "I've definitely seen progress in parts of the game. There are parts we need to do better at, there's no question about that.
"But I'm looking at other games and I'm not seeing scrum outcomes. In the New Zealand-South Africa game, the first five went to penalties. You're not seeing clear outcomes anywhere.
"They're things we're going to keep working on, if you get a bit of stability and a bit of consistency."
An analytical coach who prefers to sit in the grandstand with his laptop rather than in the coaches' box during matches, McKenzie was disappointed with the execution of his game plan in the home match against South Africa.
So despite the Brisbane drubbing and the fact that the Wallabies have not won at Newlands since McKenzie helped them do so in 1992, he said his team would approach the September 28 fixture with confidence.
"It's not like they were way out of our league," he insisted, adding: "We're not going to go there to make up the numbers, we've put a lot of thought into the potential composition of the team and how we might go about it. We didn't get to the game plan we wanted to last time and so we've still got stuff up our sleeve."
The return of experienced prop Benn Robinson will add some bulk to the squad, as will captain James Horwill after missing the last two tests with a hamstring strain.