PERTH: Australia were quickly brought back down to earth after a morale-boosting victory over South Africa in the Rugby Championship with world class scrumhalf Will Genia ruled out for at least six months with a knee injury.
The Wallabies, and coach Robbie Deans, had been under immense pressure prior to the 26-19 victory against the Springboks in Perth on Saturday after lacklustre performances against the All Blacks in their opening two games.
A poor first half in Perth was offset by a spirited fightback after the break, in which their forwards scored two tries to snatch the win, though Genia’s late injury dampened any celebrations.
The scrumhalf, who said after the match he had heard his knee ‘crack’, was ruled out after scans on Sunday revealed he had ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee.
“Will Genia is not there and Will Genia is a special player, there’s no doubt,” Deans told reporters in Perth.
“But as we’ve seen in recent times it’s a team game and no one can do it by themselves and the group that combines effectively is more dangerous than one man.”
Genia’s injury continued the ‘captain’s curse’ for the Wallabies this season with regular captain James Horwill (hamstring) and his initial stand-in David Pocock (knee) already ruled out for the rest of the southern hemisphere competition.
“I don’t think we’ll have a formal leader any more … every person we’ve given the title to has broken,” Deans joked.
“So we might just have someone lead the group out the tunnel and we might have a meeting with a few good men on Monday morning to discuss the week.”
The Wallabies also suffered a further setback with promising lock Sitaleki Timani sustaining a hamstring strain that could keep him out of their clash with a physical Argentina side next week on the Gold Coast.
Timani appeared to be growing more comfortable with international rugby on Saturday and his ball carrying was particularly prevalent against the big South African forwards.
“I think Sitaleki Timani is doing a great job, it’s a really clear role the way he needs to play and he is doing it well,” veteran lock Nathan Sharpe said after Saturday’s match.
Genia’s absence, however, will be a major concern for Deans as they face the Pumas at Skilled Park, with the much vaunted Wallabies backline, considered one of the most dangerous in world rugby when the mood takes them, misfiring this season.
Against the All Blacks they looked directionless and lacking in ideas, and resorted to defending for much of their two matches. All three of the Wallabies’ tries in the Rugby Championship so far have been scored by their forwards.
The Wallabies pack may be the source of tries for their side, but they will need to ensure their intensity level is at boiling point when they face a bruising Pumas side next week.
Led superbly by captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the Pumas shut down the All Blacks for all of the first half as the world champions tried to play a high tempo game in driving rain and gale-force winds in Wellington.
Their spot tackling was also effective, forcing turnovers and snuffing out try-scoring opportunities, which Deans noted.
“They challenge every side, they’re physical, they put pressure on the ball and they play a positional game,” Deans said. “We’ll take a good look at them and look forward to getting up to the Gold Coast.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom)