Wallabies a mess on and off field, as loss to Springboks shows

It's time for a rebrand. The mighty Wallabies are mighty Wallabies no more. They are now the Muddle-Headed Wombats.

Under Michael Cheika's withering command, the Wallabies have become a dumb outfit, and after their brain-dead loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth, appear destined in a week's time in Argentina of suffering the humiliation of finishing last in the Rugby Championship.

They are frazzled, lack on-field nous, show absolutely no confidence or method, rely on blind hope and helter-skelter football rather than proper structures. This is not a coherent team; just a bunch of lost, desperate individuals in need of better direction.

It is impossible not to question the level of on and off-field intelligence shown by the Wallabies while in Port Elizabeth.

First up, where was the logic of Cheika not having a backup specialist back-rower on the bench -- and instead picking four locks in the squad? This was an odd move fraught with danger, basically forcing the Wallabies to play David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Ned Hanigan for the entire game.

Pocock and Hooper were fine, but Hanigan was yet again ineffective, and should have been replaced in the second half for a more penetrative, assertive flanker, such as Angus Cottrell or Caleb Timu. Hanigan may look flashy and talk real tough, but he too often lacks impact with either ball-in-hand or at the breakdown, especially when confronted by more physical opponents such as the Springboks. A more industrious blindside flanker was required.

But ultimately there was no-one on the bench to save the day. That was a ridiculous oversight, emphasising yet again that Cheika falls well short as a selector.

Instead the Wallabies ran on two replacement locks -- Rory Arnold and Rob Simmons -- and the set-piece problems continued. Even with four locks, the lineout remains a mess. Who is that Australian forwards coach again?

Then there were the bewildering on-field decisions. You can't feel sorry for a team which not only boasted 79 percent possession in the second half, but was endlessly perched in the Springboks' half and had the luxury of an extra attacking player after Springboks winger Aphiwe Dyantyi was sent to the sinbin. Still they could not score a point. Not one.

What didn't help was that Wallabies captain Michael Hooper continued to ignore comfortable penalty shots at goal which would have taken them within a converted try of South Africa. Instead Hooper went for the he-man option of set-pieces, and that grunt-a-thon took the Wallabies nowhere. With it, one lost opportunity after another, falling completely into the Springboks trap.

As perplexing is Cheika's eagerness for Hooper to spend most of the day seagulling on the wing. They may as well give him the No. 11 or 14 jersey, because all year he has been constantly sighted hovering near the sideline. Fine and good if you are making the attacking breaks, which Hooper occasionally does, but surely he would have greater influence if he was hovering more around the breakdown, providing the tireless Pocock with support.

Pocock is a monumental player, but he can't do everything.

There were some good individual efforts, with Will Genia vying with Pocock as Australia's most penetrative, but it was individual stuff, and lacked a team focus. You only have to watch the first 23 seconds of this Test to get the general idea.

The far more focused Springboks kicked off, hammered Hooper in the tackle. The ball went to Folau Fainga'a, who not for the last time fumbled it, forcing Genia to throw a desperate pass to Kurtley Beale, who should have kicked out of trouble from under his own posts. Instead Beale threw a wacky wide floating pass to Hooper, which was easily intercepted by Dyantyi. None of the spectator seats were yet warm, and South Africa was already up 7-0.

The desperate Wallabies passes continued, Beale struggled to show any composure, and it was frantic catch-up footy by the visitors for the next 79 minutes.

Cheika's gamble to play Beale at No. 10 was worth trying, but due to the playmaker's stressed state it hasn't worked, and needs a revamp with Bernard Foley returning to the role against the Pumas in Salta next weekend.

But what is most sickening is the growing concern that the Wombats cannot consistently beat anyone of note, especially when you remember their win over South Africa in Brisbane was very scratchy, relying more on Springboks blunders than their own initiative.

Cheika's overall Test success rate is now 49 percent. Since the 2015 World Cup, it is a mere 15 wins from 37 Tests -- a meagre 40 percent success rate. As damning is that against New Zealand, England and Ireland, Australia has won only four of 23 internationals. The Wallabies are playing exactly like a limp seventh-ranked team in the world.

Remember, the last time in 2005 when the Wallabies won only two of their last ten Test matches, head coach Eddie Jones was punted. Those who support Cheika are thinning dramatically by the minute.

As for the media carry-on that Cheika should stay, because the players supposedly 'love him' -- big deal. Of course mediocre performers who get away with regularly going through the motions will adore someone who keeps pumping up their pay packet. It's the old 'don't bite the hand that feeds you' routine.

I've constantly discovered successful international football teams revolve around players who don't love their head coach. To the contrary, they fear him; but admire him because he educates -- making them far smarter individuals and better footballers. An enormous difference.