Will Genia leads Wallabies' show of character after pre-game blast

A shaky step, but an important stride. The Wallabies reminded all they still have fire in the belly by producing old-fashioned grunt and grind to beat the Springboks. This was a classic example of desperate players wanting to prove to all, in particular themselves, they are worth believing in.

This was not one of Australian Rugby's classic victories, as it involved too many flustered butterfly moments, but it was so timely in rousing deflated spirits during trying times. The Wallabies have always been renowned for being at their mongrel best when they appear destitute, with everything supposedly working against them.

After a dreadful Bledisloe Cup series, the gloom continued in the lead-up to the Brisbane Test as the Wallabies had to overcome the loss of three central figures- Israel Folau, David Pocock and Adam Coleman. The Wallabies line-up even had to be altered on game day as Coleman was a late withdrawal, prompting players to catch interstate flights to get to the Test on time. This was no settled campaign.

If the Springboks were ever going to win in BrisVegas, this was it. And if they kept their heads, the tourists would have. Instead they were out-flustered by a feverish opposition, who lacked finishing qualities, but overcame that through strength of character, especially when defending on their own line. The Wallabies succeeded in irritating key Springboks performers, in particular their usually reliable fullback Willie Le Roux who had a miserable mistake-ridden night.

Also helping the Wallabies was a strangely skittish referee Glen Jackson, who gave them a magic carpet ride late in the game.

The most important pre-Test comment came from the Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia. Unlike most international players who take delight in making the bleedingly obvious bland statement, Genia always tells it straight. There's no gibber with Genia.

The reason why the Wallabies were again a distant second in the Bledisloe Cup series was according to Genia due to the brutal fact Australian players weren't working hard enough. He also perfectly understood why the Wallabies supporter base were so disenchanted with them. They don't like slackers and slouchers.

A bad indictment on the team, but 100 percent correct. Too many Wallabies were expecting it to happen, rather than taking control of the moment.

On Saturday night, Genia led the way in showing what happens if you actually bend your back. Those around him responded. Every Wallaby was a worker, and with it came a considerable performance improvement.

The most compelling encounter was between Genia and his opposite- Faf de Klerk. This was a traditional No.9 battle where each cheekily tried to gain the ascendency, and each succeeded in providing an edge to their team's play.

Where the Wallabies had the advantage was their new inside centre Matt Toomua was more assertive than South African No.12 Damian de Allende.

As expected, the Toomua selection worked. While Kurtley Beale struggled at No 10, Toomua saved him with his efficiency and composure. It is a combination worth persevering with. Also the Wallabies' set-piece stood up when required. Early on, it appeared the Springboks prime weapon- the rolling maul- would lead to a landslide victory, but the Wallabies pack responded. The longer the Test went on, the more resolute the Australia scrum and lineout looked.

Most crucially, the overall effort provided some hope. The ill-health of the Australian game was shown by the dismal crowd figure of 27,849- down 14,000 from the opening Test of the Ireland series at a venue regarded a Wallabies cauldron. They rarely lose in Brisbane. There was almost as many at last weekend's Shute Shield final at North Sydney Oval, an event which produced a memorable match program that emphasised the divide between the code's grassroots and those in rugby's mahogany row.

In the program were cutting editorials and comment pieces which slagged off national rugby administrators for ignoring those at the lower levels 'who played for all the right reasons' but 'have next to nothing to show for it.'

As former Wallaby Brett Papworth wrote, Rugby Australia officials 'tell us that any issues should be directed to our governing body, which is NSWRU (or more accurately NSW Waratahs.'

"That is simply a 'crock.' NSW and every other state are absolutely at the mercy of the decisions and funding of Rugby AU, yet they refuse to take responsibility for those decisions, and for the long-term health of a game in decline," Papworth wrote. "And they are not prepared to let us poor amateurs, who know, have any say in the running of the game, and the spending of the money. Our money."

And there was a lot, lot more. Seek out that Shute Shield grand final program- it is a classic.

While the club ranks for good reason are disgruntled, the Wallabies remain the shopfront of the Australian game. So if they want to regain the trust of all and revitalise a spluttering code, the Wallabies have to build from Saturday night. They must go up a level.

The Wallabies are masters of immediately stumbling as soon as the pressure eases. With it comes diabolical moments, such as defeats to Tonga in 1973 and Samoa in 2011. Getting beaten by Argentina on the Gold Coast next Saturday wouldn't be in the same category. But it would be unacceptable.

After whingeing about having to play the All Blacks home and away at the start of the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies can't complain about two internationals in a row in Queensland. That's a breeze.

Also if the Wallabies seriously believe a year out from the Rugby World Cup they are now involved in some sort of important revival, they must start stringing victories together. Not just two at home, but also the next two on the road- against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on September 29 and the following weekend in Salta against Argentina.

Four out of four. Nothing less should be expected or accepted.