WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Australia have not won a test at New Zealand’s Eden Park in 32 years but talk of a hoodoo holds little weight for Wallabies rookie Jack Maddocks ahead of the second Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks.
Thrashed 38-13 in the opener in Sydney on Saturday, the Wallabies need a win at the Auckland stronghold to dent the All Blacks’ title defence and push the Bledisloe Cup, the annual series contested between the nations, to a decider.
Most of Michael Cheika’s Wallabies know only humiliating defeat from their trips to Eden Park and bookmakers expect more of the same on Saturday.
However Maddocks, who plays for the Melbourne Rebels, has a refreshing outlook on the challenge.
“I won with the Rebels, so what hoodoo?” the outside back quipped to reporters at the Wallabies’ training base in Waiheke Island.
Maddocks was indeed part of a rare Australian win at the stadium in June with his Super Rugby team against the Auckland Blues, a side which boasts several capped All Blacks but has been the weakest New Zealand team in the competition for years.
Not many of his international team mates can make such a boast, though.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, 33, won with the New South Wales Waratahs in 2009, his only victorious trip to Auckland in 14 years of top-flight rugby.
“There’s no better challenge for us as a whole group … to not even consider whatever they call the ‘hoodoo’ of Eden Park,” he said.
“I’ve played there quite a few times. I’ve only managed to win there once, but in saying that, we just have to make sure we use that one opportunity … that’s my biggest motivator, to win again at Eden Park.”
To try to change the Wallabies’ mindset in the leadup to Saturday’s test, Cheika has changed their environment.
He ditched the usual city hotel in favour of a resort at Waiheke Island, a peaceful expanse of vineyards, beaches and holiday homes some 40 minutes off the mainland by ferry.
Some in Australia feel bigger changes are needed, including one prominent rugby writer who called for Cheika and his entire team of assistants to be fired in the wake of the capitulation at Olympic stadium.
Cheika, who took the Wallabies to a surprise World Cup final in 2015 and has signed up until after next year’s global showpiece in Japan, was not to blame for the team’s woes, Polota-Nau said.
“He’s definitely the best man for the job,” said the hooker.
“He actually brings a great blueprint for us to work off.
“If anything it’s more about how we take that blueprint and put it out there on the field.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)