Bench weapon David Pocock bluntly told it how it is: The Wallabies have a long way to go and must review their Rugby Championship escape-act like a loss.
Former captain Pocock, returning for his first Test in three years, was a key figure as Australia produced a thrilling 24-20 comeback win over South Africa at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
But the injury-riddled flanker has stressed they will be under no illusions after being “dominated at the ruck” and outplayed for 50 minutes to trail 20-7.
It was only a host of changes made by the Springboks early in the second half – including their entire highly-influential front-row – and the impact of the Wallabies’ bench that turned the match.
Until then, the Boks’ outmuscled and overpowered Australia.
“There’s plenty to learn,” Pocock said.
“In many ways I guess it’s a bit like we’ll be reviewing it like a loss.
“I think it’s crucial we start winning those close games, but having said that there’s plenty to work to on.”
The Australian scrum is the most worrying area. It was regularly shunted back while the Boks starting front-row was on the field – a major concern just two months out from the World Cup in England.
But the bigger surprise was how definitively South Africa, with Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Louw colossal, won the breakdown battle until Pocock entered the fray.
Another former Wallabies captain, James Horwill, was also a key figure in the second half comeback, which can’t overshadow the early danger signs.
“There will be a lot to improve on,” Pocock said. “They got a number of turnovers … we turned the ball over at crucial times.”
“It was pleasing to get the win but we’re under no illusions that we’ve got a long way to go.”
While Pocock was frank about Australia’s display, Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer took a lot out of his underdog side’s performance.
Missing key back-rowers Duane Vermuelen and Willem Alberts, as well as veteran centre Jean de Villiers and then losing captain Victor Matfield to an early injury, he was adamant their confidence heading into the World Cup had only grown.
“I believe there’s a lot of positives,” Meyer said.