WALLABIES SKIPPER Nathan Sharpe is unbowed by New Zealand’s formidable winning run and says the All Blacks were beatable in Saturday’s third and final Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane.
The All Blacks have strung together 16 straight victories against all-comers and are one Test win away from joining the 1969 All Blacks and 1998 South African Springboks with 17 successive victories.
Few pundits give the Australians a chance of upsetting the World Cup champions this weekend but Sharpe, the injury-hit Australia’s fourth captain this year, said the Wallabies were up for the challenge.
“Every team is beatable,” the 111-Test lock told reporters. “We have to play the best game we have played this year — and by a way as well.
“It’s close to the best preparation for a long time that I can remember. If we can translate that into a performance on the field tomorrow night, we’ll give ourselves a shot.
“We like a challenge and it fits the Australian psyche a little bit. When the backs are to the wall the guys like to show their character.”
New Zealand have already retained the Bledisloe Cup, symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy, which they have held since 2003, following 27-19 and 22-0 victories in August. The world number two ranked Wallabies were the last side to beat the rampaging All Blacks (25-20) at this weekend’s Brisbane venue 14 months ago.
But the Australians have been forced to field far below their best side and are without injured leading stars Will Genia, David Pocock, Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, Stephen Moore and James Horwill. Further compounding the Wallabies’ woes were new injuries to winger Digby Ioane (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and backup hooker Saia Faingaa. Australia have been forced to use 12 debut players this season.
Sharpe, 34, who had planned to retire after this year’s Super 15 competition, was asked to delay his retirement plans to lead the Wallabies on their end-of-year trip to Europe next month given the catalogue of injuries to senior players.
Robbie Deans, who has led the Wallabies to just three wins in 17 encounters with New Zealand since he became Australian rugby’s first foreign coach in 2008, has urged his side to take the game to the All Blacks on Saturday.
“Nothing we bring will be of any surprise to them this weekend,” he said. ”They’ve taken their game to another level, there’s no doubt about that, as evidenced by the numbers. We’ve got to be better… and that’s what we’re chasing.
“At some point, to do well against them, you’ve got to take the initiative. You can’t wait for it to land in your lap.”