Will an Australian rugby team ever beat a New Zealand team again?
A silly question? Or a fair one, given the current state of play?
If you’re a fan of one of the five Australian Super Rugby teams, you know that your only real chance of a win is when you play one of the other Australian teams, South Africa’s lowly Kings or the Jaguars of Argentina.
In 2016, Australian teams won just three of 25 matches against New Zealand opponents (with one draw).
This season has been even more fruitless.
Not a single win for an Australian franchise against one from across the ditch, home or away, from 23 attempts. The Brumbies and Reds each get one more crack in the final two rounds.
Not many of the losses have been narrow, either, with some extremely lopsided scorelines.
At international level, the Wallabies haven’t held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, with the head-to-head for Trans-Tasman clashes since then standing at six wins to 31 (with two draws).
They are very ugly numbers – but ex-Wallaby Rod Kafer believes the wheel will turn eventually.
“It was only three years ago that we had the Waratahs win Super Rugby so when we talk about the general trend, it’s definitely been down since then,” Fox Sports rugby commentator Kafer told The New Daily.
“But I don’t think it’s systemic and I don’t think it’s something that will continue for a long period of time.”
Kafer, who played 37 Super Rugby games for the ACT Brumbies, concedes that losing can become a habit.
“I think there’s absolutely the risk that losing has become a little bit of a habit against New Zealand sides, but it’s only a habit as long as it continues,” he said.
“There’s a risk it seeps into your mentality as a player, but it would certainly be hard to deal with week-in week-out losing to New Zealand sides.”
Off-field issues, particularly the uncertainty over the future of the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, certainly can’t have helped, but that’s hardly an excuse for the once-powerful Waratahs to have just four wins for the 2017 season, two of those against the Rebels.
The Queensland Reds have had an even more disappointing campaign, with only three wins from their 13 matches.
Before the 2017 Super Rugby season began, Reds coach Nick Stiles said he “would like to think we are closing the gap” to the Kiwi sides.
Evidently, progress has been slow.
A welcome distraction from Australia’s Super Rugby woes will be the start of the international season.
The Wallabies face Fiji in Melbourne on Saturday, before fixtures against Scotland and Italy later this month.
Kafer – who says Super Rugby performances aren’t an indicator on how the Wallabies will go – is backing Michael Cheika’s side to impress.
“We look no further back than 2015 where the Super Rugby teams hadn’t necessarily performed that well and yet we had a very good Wallabies performance in the World Cup year, winning the Rugby Championship and, of course, finishing second at the World Cup,” he said.
“The expectation around our Wallabies side now is probably at an all-time low – and that won’t be lost on the players.
“It’s their opportunity to go and prove all the pundits wrong.
“I believe we’ll see the Wallabies perform very, very well, and what I’m really looking forward to is them to be unshackled and enjoy playing rugby and do all of their supporters proud.”
Wins wouldn’t surprise given the calibre of Australia’s opponents, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika summed up the mood on ABC TV’s Offsiders on Sunday when he conceded “there’s some tough times on and off the field”.
Right now, Australian rugby is looking to the Wallabies to breathe much-needed life into the ailing code.
Every game of the Wallabies’ ‘Arvo’ Test Rugby Series is live and ad-break free on FOX SPORTS. The Wallabies clash with Fiji at 2.30pm EST on Saturday.