DURBAN - Not that long ago, the Wallabies had a hero in their midfield called Tim Horan. There was not a nicer player around and he once asked me in an interview if there was a possibility that he could play for the Sharks in Durban.
Horan, known as the “Greek Helmet” to his former teammates because his facial profile (especially his nasal configuration) matched an old Spartan helmet, asked me as much.
“I could do with a season or two in Umhlanga Rocks,” he smiled in an interview regarding the lively beachfront atmosphere in the town. “Do you now if there are any gigs going?”
I answered that a fellow not unlike him in terms of affable personality was a crowd favourite at Kings Park. Dick Muir was in his prime.
However it worked out - and Muir should take it as a compliment Horan was not recruited to come to Durban - Horan went on to become a Queensland and Wallabies great.
But quiet, charming fellow he mostly is, it raised eyebrows at the weekend when the usually softly-spoken Horan said: “I am extremely angry. That is not how Wallabies defend,” referring to the eight tries that led to a 54-6 lead for the All Blacks ten minutes into the second half.
The New Zealanders then took out their pipes and slippers and enjoyed the last half hour with their feet perched on their cooler boxes.
The game was done and dusted by half-time and as well as the All Blacks were always going to play in their retort to their last game - the draw against the Lions at Eden Park - Horan and his former teammates were disgusted at how the current crop folded, missing 40 tackles in the first half.
Well, one of the oldest dictums in rugby is that the spirit and happiness in a team is reflected in how they tackle. You put your body on the line for the sake of your teammates when you are a happy team.
But I don’t think the clear discontent in the Wallabies camp has anything to do with coach Michael Cheika being out of favour with the players - or the players not backing each other.
What we have with the Wallabies is a case of the standard bearers of the game in Australia being dispirited by the greater goings-on in rugby in their country.
In South Africa, we have been rocked by two teams being axed from Super Rugby, but for the Kings and the Cheetahs, the disappointment was quickly thrown to the wind because there was handsome salvation in the invitation to join the Top 14 in Ireland, Italy, Wales and Scotland.
In fact, I know it to be the case that many of the Kings and Cheetahs players are laughing all the way to the bank at their recruitment to the “Pro14” and an exciting new competition.
Everything is to their advantage. Relatively no long haul flights (11 hours from Johannesburg to London, no jet lag, just about the same time zones and payment in the strongest currencies in the world.
The axed Australian side, the Force, have no such option and it is frankly staggering that after 12 years of the ARU trying to get rugby union going in the rugby league stronghold of Western Australia, they meekly gave in to Sanzaar.
I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that there is a call for Perth fans to attend the Boks versus Australia game dressed in green. The fans are encouraged not to go as far as cheering for the Springboks, but the statement had to be made that Australians have lost faith in their rugby leadership.
The Sea of Blue! Amazing turnout at the WA Rugby Supporters' Rally!
The passion of WA rugby fans is undeniable! The best fans in the world! pic.twitter.com/s8RQtKVJuz
And that is why the Wallabies are so poor right now. No strong leadership; muddled issues surrounding the participation of the Rebels and the Force in Super Rugby.
The players don’t know where they stand and the ARU are regarded as the buffoons that they seem to be. From this flimsy foundation, the Wallabies are not going to be winning too many matches soon.