Maybe Wallabies not so woeful after all
EVEN in victory, Australia just can't escape the long, dark shadow of the All Blacks.
Through no fault of their own, New Zealand's unyielding domination of the international game continues to taint the Wallabies' other accomplishments, but the comparisons are starting to become nauseous.
Just because the Wallabies can't knock the All Blacks off their perch, it doesn't mean they're useless.
Roger Federer's still a pretty handy tennis player even though he's struggled to beat Rafael Nadal and Sebastian Vettel can still drive pretty well even though he keeps finding himself in Lewis Hamilton's rear-view mirror.
There was a time in Australian rugby circles when beating South Africa was a real cause for celebration, a rare and mighty feat worth shouting about from the rooftops.
It still should be because the Springboks remain one of Australia's oldest and fiercest rivals.
Old-timers will remember the days when the Wallabies went decades without beating South Africa and every win was savoured as a major triumph.
But that's no longer the case because of Australia's unhealthy obsession with the All Blacks.
New Zealand have set a standard that no team in world rugby has been able to match so the value of Australia's victories against other teams is rapidly diminishing.
So let's just forget about the All Blacks for a moment and give some credit where credit's due because Saturday's 23-18 win by the Wallabies over South Africa was something to cherish for Australia's long-suffering fans.
For the prophets of doom, it was a deeply flawed performance that undermined everything that is wrong with Australian rugby.
The scrum was a constant worry, collapsing several times and forcing running changes to the front row, and the lineouts were unreliable, with two poor throws costing the Wallabies the chance to put the result beyond doubt when they had the Springboks on the ropes.
There was also a glaring lack of cohesion in the new-look backline. Although both had good individual games, the 10-12 combination of Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua didn't really gel, though Michael Cheika says he wants to persist and give them another chance.
But for the optimists, there was also plenty to like about the performance.
It was a match the Wallabies could easily have lost after the late withdrawals of Israel Folau, David Pocock and Adam Coleman, yet they still found a way to win.
Right at the death, when they were pinned on their line and under the most suffocating pressure, they showed real composure when they needed it most.
The scrum held firm, they made all their tackles and waited for the Springboks to blink first.
It might have been ugly at times but it was also an old-fashioned, white-knuckled ride that offered some welcome relief from the ever depressing comparisons with the neighbours.