Wallabies captain Stephen Moore says he has not taken notice of criticism hurled his way in recent weeks but insists he still has plenty of self-belief in his game as Australia look to reverse the “embarrassment” that is 2016 against the Springboks in Brisbane.
In the wake of the Wallabies’ defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington, Moore was asked if he had lost confidence in his lineout throwing, or in other words, whether he had the yips.
His response was a blunt “no” but there is no hiding from the 57 per cent throwing record he has returned in his previous two Tests.
Moore was asked again on Friday, after the Wallabies captain’s run at Ballymore Stadium, how he felt about the criticism directed at him.
“Has there?” Moore asked. “I haven’t really looked much at that, so if you start looking at that stuff you take your mind off what’s important. There’s a lot of belief in the team.
“I have got a lot of self-belief about my role in the team and we’re just worrying about what we can control internally so anything else is peripheral.”
Moore will need to generate belief quickly so he can formulate a solid partnership with his second-rowers and lineout generals as Australia attempt to get their set-piece sorted.
The skipper has backed new blindside breakaway and renowned jumper Dean Mumm, who has replaced Moore’s Brumbies teammate Scott Fardy, saying: “Deano’s done really well in the last few weeks when he’s come on and he’ll do a good job.”
Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss said it would be foolish to write a player of Moore’s calibre off and is expecting the Wallabies lineout to be much improved.
“Amazing player, great individual rugby player and a great hooker,” said Strauss of Moore, who will run out in his 108th Test on Saturday. “He knows how to throw the ball into the lineout so that’s definitely not an area of his game that is lacking and we know they’ll fine-tune their lineouts and be back.”
Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham, who is Moore’s mentor in Canberra, said the 33-year-old was playing the best football of his life.
“He’s still regarded as one of the best hookers in the world,” Larkham said. “He had a super-strong Super Rugby campaign, probably the best rugby I’ve ever seen him play. He’s making sure that his performance this week is as good as can be.”
After a shock 3-0 home defeat to England, Saturday presents as the Wallabies best chance to snap a six-game losing streak.
It is a dip in form that Larkham has described as an “embarrassment”, but statistics are on the Wallabies’ side.
For the first time since the England series they are favourites with the bookies and have won eight of nine games against the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.
South Africa has only beaten Australia three times this century away from home, but facts and figures aside, Larkham reckons the Wallabies have had their best training week of the year.
“Motivation’s high, the energy’s high,” Larkham said. “We’ve carried a fair bit of embarrassment out of the last five games [this year] so the guys are very focused on trying to put a good performance out on the paddock.
“We felt we started something over in New Zealand in that last Test and we need to continue that.”
The Wallabies finalised their bench on Friday, opting for a 5-3 split with winger Drew Mitchell coming back into the frame to provide the backline with greater balance, according to Larkham.