Wallabies superstar Israel Folau is only one game away from igniting back into top form, Bernard Foley says.
Folau is in something of a rut as Australia approaches Saturday’s (Sunday morning AEST) crucial Rugby Championship clash away to South Africa.
The 27-year-old fullback has by no means been letting the team down but admitted after Australia’s victory over Argentina earlier this month he was dissatisfied with his form and in the thick of one of the most “challenging” periods of his career.
Almost unstoppable when he first burst onto the Test scene, Folau has scored just three tries for the Wallabies in the last two seasons as debate continues to rage over whether he would have a greater impact at outside centre, and how the team should operate to increase his involvement in open play.
But like a striker who can’t find the back of the net or a fast bowler in the midst of a wicket drought, Foley believes it’s only a matter of time before Folau’s breakthrough comes.
“It’s funny – whenever people start writing Izzy off, he’ll definitely try and prove them wrong,” Foley told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.
“He’s someone we need firing and I’m sure he’s not far off from having that game that ignites everything.
“I think he’s done his job extremely well for our side and he’s providing that security at the back, but also that spark in attack.
“Although he hasn’t scored as many tries as everyone would like he’s still doing a lot for the team and allowing us to play the way we want to play.”
Coach Michael Cheika is considered highly unlikely to move Folau to the centres, where many pundits and ex-players believe he should play for Australia, in the belief he provides more for the team at fullback.
Inside centre Foley, meanwhile, is relishing another chance to build on his partnership with five-eighth Quade Cooper.
The pair were fierce rivals in a pre-World Cup battle for Australia’s No.10 jersey last year but are now working together and have been hugely influential in the back-to-back wins over the Springboks and Pumas.
“The best thing is that we’ve had that competition against each other – every training session last year was pretty much 15-on-15 so we were always competing and that builds great relationships,” Foley said.
“Now to play with each other is also exciting. Our ability to swap that first ballplayer probably allows the other one to have a bit more freedom to see the game a bit differently.
“And it probably allows Quade to play his natural game a bit more and then myself just to play a bit more of a supporting role.”
The Wallabies held a gym session on Monday and will have their first proper training run since arriving in South Africa on Tuesday.