Robbie Deans and 2009 Wallabies: Seeking New Resilience

James MortimerAnalyst IMay 12, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 11:  Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans speaks with media during the Wallabies 2009 International Test Season Launch on May 11, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Robbie Deans has made his intentions clear for the selection of his first squad of 2009.  He has stated that nobody, not even his captain, is safe in their position.


Of course, Deans is not a liar, but he is a master of his craft. 


This will not be so much a statement of truth, as much as a carefully crafted piece of verbal motivation designed to draw the most out of his four field armies.


Two of the four Australian teams are still in contention, with the Brumbies and Waratahs both playing for their lives this weekend. 


According to the Canterbury legend, both sides could win if they reach the finals.  He has signified that often teams who win the Super rugby titles have come from a background of adversity and have pushed on.


This is debatable. 


One just needs to look at the championship winning teams.  From Graham Henry’s Auckland Blues, who boasted close to an entire All Black team.  The Brumbies side boasting players such as Stephen Larkham and George Gregan in their prime.  The 2007 Bulls team that wielded fourteen Springboks in their squad, and of course, Deans own seven-time champion Crusaders.


These sides had few if any weaknesses, and had key men scattered throughout the side, and within the coaching ranks.


The Brumbies and Waratahs both have first year Super rugby coaches, and definable weaknesses throughout the side, most notably at the crucial playmaking positions.


But they do have resilience, a hallmark of coming back from adversity.  As Deans has mentioned, it is developing further.


Few could have predicted the horrors that the Brumbies would have had to deal with this season; struggling with injuries, losing one of their own so tragically, before reaching their annus horribilis with a record defeat in Wellington.


But still they fight, and even the supremely confident Chiefs would be nervous of the two-time champions coming into town.


Equally the Waratahs, liked by few, hated by most, there will even be Australian rugby supporters that will refuse to cheer NSW if they reach the top four.


It is almost as if they have reached this point of the competition on sheer bloody mindedness.  They have achieved a point where they are still alive going into the final round, and have done it their way, and whatever will be said about them, one must grudgingly admire their spirit.


And this is what Deans is seeking.


The mark of a great team, according to some, is the ability to close a tight match.  Even if you have been outplayed for 79 minutes, still find the fortitude to take victory.


Great All Black teams have done this throughout the ages, but in the same manner equally dominant All Black teams have not. 


One could argue that there have not been many Wallaby teams that have managed to blow away their opponents like other major test powers.


But there have been many Australian test rugby sides that have won, even when faced with superior opposition or unsurmountable odds.


Deans believes that this was the key aspect missing from his team last year.  It is widely believed that Australia was in a position to beat the All Blacks twice last year, but fell short in the final stages.


Ironically, while Deans believed the Springboks were the best team of 2008, it is this that proves that the All Blacks indeed deserved their mantle as the best side in the world.


They knew how to close out games.


This is the quality that is desperately wanted by the Wallaby coach.  He knows what it is, for he has coached it, but has done so to supremely talented Canterbury sides. 


So the declaration by Deans may not be intended to be a mind game after all.  History has shown that inferior teams, with lesser players can beat more decorated opponents.


Last year, with the best at his disposal, the Wallabies could not achieve this. 


It appears that this year, Deans is seeking men who have a belief, who have come from a background of adversity.  For it has been a dark period in Australian rugby history of late, and after the home series against the Barbarians, Les Bleus, and Azzuri, there will be the usual formidable foes awaiting in an eagerly awaited Tri Nations.


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