MELBOURNE The Australian teams' continuing struggles against their New Zealand counterparts in Super Rugby is fuelling an inferiority complex that is ultimately self-perpetuating, former Wallabies flyhalf Rod Kafer has said.
Australia's five Super Rugby teams have yet to beat a New Zealand opponent in 11 matches over the six weeks of the current season and managed only three wins last year.
The lopsided record has fuelled criticism of the troubled tournament and raised alarm bells in Australia where a number of pundits have called for at least one local team to be axed in a bid to raise the competitiveness of the other sides in the conference.
"All the players hear is how far ahead the Kiwi teams are and eventually, as resistant as you try to be as a player, those things over time seep in, through the smallest cracks in a player's psyche," Kafer, a rugby analyst with Fox Sports, said in comments published by Fairfax Media on Tuesday.
"You get the sense that our decline in performance, particularly against New Zealand sides, has unfortunately been consistent over the past three years.
"It's almost in the psyche now, that deferment to New Zealand and it becomes self-perpetuating."
The Sydney-based New South Wales Waratahs won the 2014 title three years after the Queensland Reds clinched the 2011 championship, but Australia's performances in the tournament have since been in freefall.
The gap is mirrored at international level, with Australia managing only a single win over the All Blacks in 16 matches dating back to 2011.
A future shakeup of the competition, so far kept under wraps by the tournament's governing body SANZAAR, has fuelled media speculation that one of the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels or ACT Brumbies will be culled from the tournament.
Wallabies winger Dayne Haylett-Petty said on Monday that the innuendo was starting to affect his team mates at the Perth-based Force but Kafer rejected the idea that the uncertainty was affecting performances on the field.
"Our performances against New Zealand teams have declined over a period of time, I'd say the past three years," he said.
"Of course there's going to be uncertainty around the competition but if anything that gives the players opportunities to be inspired and to play as if their lives depended on it."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)