MELBOURNE, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Australia’s second-half capitulations in back-to-back losses to the All Blacks triggered accusations the team lacked fitness but winger Dane Haylett-Petty says it is the mental game they must fix before facing South Africa next in the Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies conceded a combined 59 points after halftime in their opening matches in Sydney and Auckland, and their line defence grew increasingly sluggish against the All Blacks’ counter-attack.
Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer told local media this week he was sure Michael Cheika’s team were “not fit enough”, putting the heat on the side’s conditioning staff.
Haylett-Petty, however, said the Wallabies’ problems were more between the ears.
“I don’t think we’re not fit enough, no,” he said on Rugby Australia’s website (rugby.com.au).
“It’s something we need to go back over the game plan whether we could work smarter not harder.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s a fitness thing.
“If anything, (it’s) concentration, we let ourselves down and you see other teams capitalise.”
The Wallabies, last in the four-team southern hemisphere competition, have just over a week to turn things around before taking on the Springboks in Brisbane.
The nature of the lopsided defeats to the All Blacks suggest Cheika and his staff have their work cut out with just a year to go until the World Cup in Japan, but Haylett-Petty said there was no need for a major overhaul.
“It’s easy to throw the baby out with the bath water when you look at the scoreline but we actually did a lot of things right, I think,” he said.
“We just got killed on turnovers and there’s not a lot of teams in world rugby that will hurt you like that from your mistakes.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford