James Mortimer 09.Oct.2012Getty Images
Despite a 3-0 series whitewash of Six Nations champions Wales, attention has focused on their back-to-back losses against the All Blacks at the beginning of The Investec Rugby Championship, a hammer blow considering their primary 2012 goal of winning the Bledisloe Cup.
After those losses the Australian resigned themselves to ensuring they stayed number two in the world, but that KPI hasn’t been convincingly registered with the Springboks holding the second spot in the rankings at the close of the tournament.
Horwill told the Sydney Morning Herald that the massive injury toll had provided some benefit to the side.
“I think certainly there's some guys that have been playing who probably wouldn't have had the opportunity if everything had gone according to plan,” Horwill said.
“I think a guy that's a good example of that is a guy like Michael Hooper - obviously he's been outstanding, and if Poey had have been fit you probably wouldn't have imagined at the start of the year that he would have got as much football as he has.
Pocock agreed with the ‘first choice’ captain.
“It has certainly given players an opportunity and this should add to the depth of the Wallabies in years to come,” he said.
“It has been a tough year. We had injuries in the June Tests but managed to win the series against a spirited Welsh team, but to beat the All Blacks and Springboks you have to be on top of your game and we have fallen short against them. I don't think it is due to a lack of effort, we have just not been good enough on the night and it is a steep learning curve at that level.”
The duo believed they could get back to the second placed ranking in the IRB ladder, but interestingly felt it would be achieved next season, not during the end of year tour.
“I'd preface that by saying that it will take a lot of hard work and some very good player management during the Super Rugby season to ensure we have as many players available for selection as possible come the June Tests and then later in the year,” Pocock said.
“New Zealand are clearly the best in the world at the moment and that has been evident in this tournament - that is the challenge - to close the gap and become more deserving.”
However Horwill felt that they could dislodge the All Blacks if they could discover the required consistency required by the best sides in the world.
“We know that we as a country, on our day, have the ability to beat any country in the world,” he said.
“Being No.1 in the world is a by-product of performing well all the time in every outing that you have.”
“We get an opportunity in (two) week's time to prove that we can match it with them (the All Blacks) and I'm confident we can.”
“While they've been playing excellent rugby with an exceptional amount of depth in all areas of their game, they're not unbeatable. I talked about consistency, even when they have an off day they are still able to grind out a win. They are an amazing side but I still don't think they're that far ahead of everyone else. It's not a bridge too far, so to speak.
Pocock felt the difference between the sides was how the All Blacks took rare chances, and the Wallabies were still to discover the art.
“Taking our opportunities, and a good team performance (will beat the All Blacks),” the injured flank said.
“We are certainly capable of it but playing against a team like New Zealand you have to take your opportunities. They haven't scored many tries against us in the close games but we have not capitalised on opportunities that we've created. And that's crucial.