Melbourne – The Wallabies are hurting after seeing droves of fans desert Lang Park during their dismal 38-12 loss to South Africa, but team unity remains strong, midfielder Christian Leali'fano has said.
Australia's fourth consecutive defeat has sent alarm bells ringing Down Under and plunged the team to the bottom of the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship.
The sight of sections of the Brisbane crowd heading for the exits in disgust on Saturday with a quarter left to play has prompted fears the slump is turning local fans away from the game.
“Seeing that hurts, and you take that personally,” inside centre Leali'ifano told reporters in Perth on Monday.
“It's tough letting your fans down.
“We're hoping they stick by us. We feel like results are just around the corner.”
Few in Australia's rugby community feel the same.
Former players and pundits have tipped the Wallabies to become Argentina's first victims in the tournament when the sides clash in Perth on Saturday, and new coach Ewen McKenzie is under pressure after just three matches at the helm.
Australia were smashed in all facets of the game by the Springboks, their forwards bullied at the set piece and their vaunted backline impotent in attack.
A rabble in defence, the side's basic skill errors in ball handling, passing and kicking have undermined McKenzie's goal of implementing an up-tempo running game to replace predecessor Robbie Deans's more stodgy brand of rugby.
McKenzie said the Wallabies brainstrust would seek to 'dumb down' the game-plan after the Springboks loss, a comment which drew an incredulous response from local rugby media.
“The rudderless Wallabies are certainly no rugby scholars. More like a bunch of dolts,” prominent rugby writer Greg Growden fumed on Scrum.com.
“And now their coach is going to 'dumb it down' even further, making the game plan simpler. Oh no! This is excruciating. Really, how much more can the Australian rugby supporter endure?”
Leali'ifano maintained that the hail of criticism had not impacted upon players' morale.
“It's tough when you're not getting the results,” he said.
“Everyone sort of looks back on the team culture and thinks that it might take a bit of a hit.
“But the boys are really sticking tight and not much is fazing us. We've just got to look after our own game and hopefully produce the results.” – Reuters