Off the back of their most important win since Bernard Foley’s kick in 2014, you might have been forgiven for thinking the Waratahs’ review on Monday would have been all hunky dory.
Darren Coleman was the first to enjoy a beer following their remarkable 24-21 victory over the Crusaders on Saturday – their first over the New Zealand juggernauts since their championship victory in front of 62,000 eight long years ago – but he also put a stake in the ground on Monday.
Stream Over 50 Sports Live & On-Demand with Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Rather than pats on backs, Coleman gave his developing Tahs a reality check at their review on Monday morning.
“It was definitely more of a wake-up meeting,” Wallabies aspirant Jed Holloway told reporters on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t in terms that we were bad, but we can be so much better.
“It wasn’t necessarily a wake-up call, but it was highlighting the areas we can improve and they showed stats that back that up.”
Holloway, like all Australians, have seen this script before.
It has generally exploded in the Wallabies’ faces.
One week rock stars, the next second-rate.
Never has that been more apparent than in 2019 when the Wallabies were shut out by the All Blacks 36-0 a week after beating them in Perth by a record score 47-26.
While the Waratahs class of 2022 are only now pushing for Test selection, the scars are a constant reminder every Australian rugby player now bears and Saturday’s clash against Moana Pasifika in Auckland represents the ultimate banana peel match against a side that has won just once.
“In the past we’ve had a tendency to become a little bit complacent after a win, so we’ve got to make sure we’re focused on Moana – they’re a dangerous side,” said Holloway, who is pushing for Wallabies selection following a stellar return to the Waratahs.
“We’re in a pretty nice position after that win on the weekend and for us to go deeper in the competition we’ve got to get better.
“DC’s (Coleman) done a great job in allowing us to enjoy the moment and enjoy the result, but once we hit Monday it’s straight back into what we do and that’s reviewing the game from the weekend and even though it was a good win, it wasn’t a great review.
“There were still a lot of work-ons, I wouldn’t say it was our best performance.”
That mentality is shared by Izaia Perese, who was a shining light during last season’s year from hell.
“In those minutes, 100 per cent you celebrate, you enjoy the win, but when it comes to the new week and new game you’ve got to reset and focus,” the two-Test Wallaby said.
“We all know that we’ve got to back it up this week.”
Winless in 2021, the Waratahs can go a long way to cementing a playoffs spot by beating Sekope Kepu’s Pasifika side.
So extraordinary has their turnaround been that they could leapfrog the fifth-placed Queensland Reds by week’s end.
But it says something about the mentality instilled under Coleman that every loss in 2022 has stung more than last year’s embarrassment.
“The losses hurt even more this year than they did last year,” Perese said.
“It hurts so much more because we care and we know we can be one of the best teams now.
“We expect so much of ourselves this year.”
Meanwhile, Brumbies and Wallabies outside back Tom Wright says last year’s frustration is driving the team forward.
After their heartbreaking stoppage time loss to the Reds in the Super Rugby AU final to the Reds, the bruised and battered Brumbies lost three straight matches across the ditch.
Their terrible draw was a factor, as was their horrid injury toll, but Wright says they have some unfinished business in NZ.
“Without making it about last year there’s definitely a bit of a burning sensation for a few of us,” Wright said.
“We went over there last year and got touched up a little bit so definitely looking to make amends on what happened then so it’s a good opportunity for us.”
A win against the Chiefs in Waikato will consolidate their top two position, leaving them in a pole position to go deep into the finals in what will be Dan McKellar’s final year in charge of the Brumbies before moving full-time into the Wallabies.