Wallabies move an 'eye-opener' for Deans - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies move an 'eye-opener' for Deans

By David Beniuk 01/09/2010 02:04:11 PM Comments (0)

A former colleague says there's no doubt Robbie Deans' move from the Crusaders' winning culture to a struggling period in Australian rugby has been a "big eye-opener" for the Wallabies coach.

But Sharks Super 14 mentor John Plumtree, who worked with Deans in the All Blacks set-up from 2001-02, has backed him to close the gap on New Zealand and South Africa in time for next year's Rugby World Cup.

Plumtree, who caught up with Deans during the Wallabies' training camp near Durban on Tuesday, said his ultra-competitive mate was relishing the challenge of turning Australia into contenders.

"He sees everything as a challenge and I guess going from a winning culture to what he's had to endure now has been, even for him, a big eye-opener," Plumtree told AAP.

"He'll know that the goal is that World Cup.

"I guess if you'd say Robbie was struggling, imagine if a mere mortal was there, he wouldn't have won one game.

"Obviously the job's huge and Australia doesn't have the player base like we've got in New Zealand or South Africa so the depth is not there.

"He'll be doing the best he can, that's for sure, knowing the bloke."

Australia currently sit last on the Tri-Nations table but have a game in hand over the second-placed Springboks, who ran them down to win 44-31 last weekend.

They face South Africa for the second time in a week at altitude in Bloemfontein on Saturday (0100 Sunday AEST) and follow that tough assignment with their final Tri-Nations outing against the rested All Blacks in Sydney.

The prospect of a second straight one-from-six Tri-Nations may be real, but New Zealand-born Plumtree said Australia could bridge the gap with their southern hemisphere rivals by the time the World Cup begins next September.

"I guess the toughest thing for them has been the fact they haven't been able to play their full strength side with the amount of injuries that they've had," Plumtree said.

"They lose a fair bit of grunt up front without their No.1 tighthead (Ben Alexander) and also without (hooker Tatafu) Polota-Nau, he's a big player for them, our guys have got a lot of respect for him.

"The Australians have been pretty competitive but without being full strength, which has got to be a positive.

"You get James Horwill back, (Peter) Hynes (and) all of a sudden you're going to get that little bit of depth and the bench becomes a lot stronger.

"It's going to be important to Australia's challenge that they do get those players back fit."

Plumtree, whose Sharks are currently running first in South Africa's provincial competition the Currie Cup, said the Wallabies were capable of breaking their 47-year highveld hoodoo at Vodacom Park.

"You look at the way they played (in Pretoria), they didn't tire by the looks and that's probably been an issue in the past playing on the highveld," he said.

"You probably have to give a fair bit of credit to the conditioning, they were right in it until the end."

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