If the Wallabies needed any reminder of the sheer enormity of the challenge that awaits them in their Bledisloe Cup opener, they got it immediately after their fumbling win over Italy.
Australia were far from convincing in a 40-27 win on Saturday over the world’s No.15-ranked side, while New Zealand looked as slick and effortless as ever as they scythed past the British and Irish Lions in their series-opening Test victory at Eden Park.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is yet to go through the tape with an analytical eye but he probably doesn’t have to.
“There’s not many weaknesses there,” Cheika said.
“They’re very consistent with the way they play their footy. They have been for many years.
“They just stay at it and that’s what you’ve got to be able to deal with, that pressure.
“I think the focus is always back onto us. We’ve got to be able to create pressure when that time comes.”
Every bookmaker and rugby pundit in the world says otherwise but Cheika is confident the Wallabies can spring an upset when they face the All Blacks on August 19 in Sydney.
“I believe it. I suppose that’s where it’s got to start, hasn’t it?” he said.
“I don’t blame other people if they wouldn’t believe it, based on what’s happened this year overall, whether it be in Super Rugby or in our games.
“We’ve got to show it on the field, and we will.”
A host of key players should be back on deck for the Wallabies by the time they reassemble in camp after the conclusion of the provincial season, but winger Sefa Naivalu is in a race against time to be fit.
The Fijian-born speedster will miss the next seven weeks with an ankle syndesmosis injury, suffered minutes after he scored his second try against Italy.
Centre Samu Kerevi (ankle), halfback Nick Phipps (ankle) and dynamic back-rower Sean McMahon (wrist) are all on track to return over the next few weeks and Kurtley Beale will be ready to begin training with the NSW Waratahs in early July after ending his stint in the English Premiership.
Cheika said ensuring players remained at a higher level of fitness over the coming period was crucial, so they can execute the game plan he believes can help them topple the All Blacks.