Kurtley Beale looks destined for another bench role against Argentina despite sparking the match-winning try in the 24-23 win over South Africa.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has hinted he won’t restore Kurtley Beale to his starting team against Argentina despite the brilliant cameo that helped snatch victory over South Africa.
Axed as five eighth after the back-to-back losses to the All Blacks, mercurial Beale was only introduced with seven minutes remaining in Perth on Saturday night but his arrival was pivotal.
Replacing Matt Toomua at inside centre, Beale’s fresh legs and combination with five eighth Bernard Foley and fullback Israel Folau exposed the tired Springboks forwards before the Wallabies secured their 78th minute try through winger Rob Horne, allowing Foley to kick the winning conversion.
His arrival meant six of the seven backs were from Super Rugby Champions the Waratahs – with outstanding outside centre Tevita Kuridrani the only exception.
It begged the question of whether McKenzie would give Beale the chance to start at inside centre, the position where he was so influential for the Waratahs, in the next Rugby Championship Test against Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
With Foley doing well at No.10, that would mean benching the reliable Toomua, who set up Folau’s early try and has been McKenzie’s choice at No.12 since last year.
McKenzie wasn’t in the mood to discuss that option on Sunday but indicated he valued Beale’s ability to impact from the bench.
“You blokes are just like yo-yos. You go backwards and forwards. I don’t know what you want me to say,” McKenzie said.
“Everyone seems to think the guys outside the 15 are inferior players.
“But we want the players to go out there and make a difference.”
While the win was a much-needed morale boost, the Wallabies appeared fortunate to be playing against a 14-man South Africa when 100-Test winger Bryan Habana was harshly sin-binned for a high tackle on counterpart Adam Ashley-Cooper with 15 minutes to go.
McKenzie was more concerned about try-scoring opportunities the Wallabies squandered, notably when replacement prop Pek Cowan was denied his first Test five-pointer after Rob Simmons was penalised for obstruction.
Earlier, Ashley-Cooper appeared to knock on over the tryline, though replays suggested a defender’s hand knocked the ball out.
“There were a couple of really good opportunities which we didn’t finish off,” McKenzie said.
“We got over the line a couple of times, it was frustrating not to get the points.”
Having finally cleared his eligbility issues, explosive Brumbies winger Henry Speight will have to wait a bit longer for his Test call up after suffering a slight hamstring strain in a National Rugby Championship match.
Instead, McKenzie has called up wingers Tom English and Joe Tomane to join his squad.
“I’ve seen (Speight’s) scans, it’s certainly not traumatic. But I’m going to be conservative,” McKenzie said.
With the Wallabies facing a major challenge from the big and aggressive Argentine forward pack, there is some good news with seasoned hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau’s recovery from a knee injury “progressing really quickly.”
It means both he and Saia Fainga’a – who left the squad on match day for the birth of his first child – could both be available for the Argentina clash to help mitigate the side’s hooker woes.
Polota-Nau’s presence in the front row would be a huge plus for the Wallabies, who have given away at least 13 points in their last two games directly from scrum penalties.
And Argentina could be their toughest task yet, as they smashed the Boks’ scrum two weeks ago in Salta.
“Without getting too technical, some scrums go well against some scrums – others don’t – you have your bogey teams,” McKenzie said.
“But we scrummed well against Argentina last year and I expect us to do the same.”