Depleted Wallabies aim to ruin NZ’s record

BRISBANE - With the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship already firmly in New Zealand hands, injury-depleted Australia still has a chance to spoil the All Blacks’ perfect year in Saturday’s Test in Brisbane.

By (AP)

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Published: Sat 20 Oct 2012, 11:54 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:45 AM

The All Blacks return to the scene of their last defeat, 17 Tests and 14 months ago, at Suncorp Stadium.

One more win, and New Zealand will equal their longest winning streak of 17, set by its predecessors from 1965-70. South Africa tied the record for top-tier teams in 1998, and Lithuania holds the world record of 18.

The Wallabies ruined the All Blacks’ last shot at the record in 2010, when they won 26-24 against similar odds in Hong Kong to end New Zealand’s run of 15 wins.

Nathan Sharpe, who has delayed his retirement to captain Australia after injuries to James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, says the Wallabies crave another unlikely victory.

“Every team is beatable,” the 111-Test veteran said on Friday. “We have to play the best game we have played this year — and by a way as well.

“We like a challenge and it fits the Australian psyche a little bit. When the backs are to the wall the guys like to show their character.”

New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup it’s held since 2003 with 27-19 and 22-0 wins against Australia in August.

After the second Test loss at Eden Park, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said it was hard for any team to compete with an All Black side in that form. They have gone on to beat the Springboks and Argentina home and away as well.

“They’ve taken their game to another level, there’s no doubt about that, as evidenced by the numbers,” Deans said. “We’ve got to be better ... and that’s what we’re chasing.

“At some point, to do well against them, you’ve got to take the initiative. You can’t wait for it to land in your lap.”

Former All Black Deans also knows New Zealand will be “desperate” for the 17th straight win, as well as a fitting celebration for hooker Keven Mealamu, who will become the third All Black to play 100 Tests.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, who earned his 100th cap during last year’s World Cup, said he knows just how apprehensive and emotional Mealamu will be feeling on the eve of the milestone.

“It is pretty exciting, really. It is a hell of an achievement,” McCaw said. “The first thing you have got to do is get on the field and play well, and for the rest of us hopefully we can do the same to make it a memorable night.”

The All Blacks will field 14 of the 15 players from their last Test defeat, the 25-20 loss at Brisbane, where Australia hasn’t lost in four years.

“From my point of view, to have people like Kevvy, DC (Dan Carter) and Woody (Tony Woodcock) and co like that, we have played a hell of a lot together and I think you rely on each other to get things right. Because you don’t get it right every time yourself,” McCaw said.

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