The monkey might be off the back but another far more dangerous beast lies in wait for the Wallabies.
After the sweet relief of ending a six-Test losing streak, Australia’s attention has shifted sharply towards Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Perth’s nib Stadium.
The Pumas shape as a far tougher assignment than South Africa, who appear comfortably the tournament’s worst team on the basis of the 23-17 result at Suncorp Stadium.
In contrast, Argentina all but matched New Zealand for an hour in Hamilton, spending much of the first half in front and troubling the world champions in ways Australia couldn’t even dream across two comprehensive Bledisloe Cup defeats.
The All Blacks eventually clicked into gear, casually piling on five tries in the second half to win 57-22 – but the Wallabies know they’re in for one hell of a battle against a rising rugby power.
“It was great to have a win but already they were talking in the changeroom about the challenge we’re focused on next week,” defence coach Nathan Grey told reporters on Sunday.
“The Argentinian side in the last 18 months has been exceptional, they’ve been growing in terms of their ability to play together (with) those guys playing Super Rugby for the Jaguares.
“They’re a new platform in terms of scrummage. They play a nice open style of game, if you knock off defensively they’ll make you pay.”
The Wallabies could have beaten the Boks by more but were often nervy in attack, making mistakes coach Michael Cheika attributed to the “anxiety” of needing to win so desperately.
Vice-captain Michael Hooper – who tore through a game-high 13 tackles to be named man of the match – hopes they’ll be able to play with more freedom and polish against the Pumas now they’ve broken through.
“It’s amazing how being in the right place when things are going great just seems to happen,” he said.
“For us, getting that monkey off the back is nice.”
Cheika will be forced into making at least one change with young prop Allan Alaalatoa ruled out with a knee strain after taking a knock in the second half.
Toby Smith and Tom Robertson have been drafted into the squad as replacements, with the latter in line to become Australia’s eighth debutant this year.
He could also be joined by fellow uncapped forward Lopeti Timani, the last man trimmed from the team that faced South Africa.
One of the country’s best young No.8 prospects, Timani has impressed at training and Cheika is keen to find out, sooner rather than later, if he can cut the mustard at Test level.