Supporting the Qantas Wallabies through this year�s Tri-Nations has been something of a roller coaster ride.
There was the slow steady start in Perth as the Wallabies put in a solid effort to defeat the world champion Springboks (16-9) and then the rollercoaster car began to climb nicely as the Wallabies put in one of their best performances in recent years to comfortably defeat the All Blacks 34 � 19 in Sydney.
Then the ride took us down at terrifying speed as the Wallabies crashed to a 10 � 39 reverse in the return match against New Zealand in Auckland but just as quickly we raced up once again to an even more dizzying height as the Men of Gold pulled off their first victory in South Africa in eight long years, overcoming the Springboks in Durban 27 -15.
But just when we were beginning to enjoy the view the ride plummeted down again, it seemed endlessly, as the Wallabies were walloped 53-8, their biggest ever Test loss, in the graveyard of so many Australian teams, Coca Cola (formerly Ellis) Park in Johannesburg.
But thankfully the ride didn�t stop there. Now we find ourselves in a tunnel at the very bottom. It�s dark, we�re moving very slowly and whether we�re going up or further down from here is anybody�s guess.
Just whether we are in for another dizzying high or a heartbreaking low we�ll all know by late Saturday night.
If Robbie Deans, the master coach, up against his country of birth for the third time this weekend, was shaken by the events in Johannesburg he�s not showing it. Deans drew a line under the Test as he mapped out how the Wallabies could re-bound from their worse ever loss to claim their first Tri-Nations title since 2002.
�Can we turn our fortunes around?� asked Deans in his column on www.rugby.com.au earlier this week. �Absolutely� was his resounding answer.
�This year�s tournament has been punctuated by teams rebounding from defeat in one game, to success in the next� he continued. The key he ventured: �self belief.�
�It is for that reason that we have chosen not to dwell � either publicly or privately - on the reasons why we performed so disappointingly in Johannesburg.�
�To devote too much energy to that cause at this moment would be to kill off valuable preparation time on negative emotions.�
Wise words from a coach who knows all about winning.
A sane and rational mind would say that this match might be beyond the Wallabies tonight. The loss in Johannesburg was �too big�, the mental scars �too deep� but this year�s Tri-Nations has been anything but sane and rational.
As disappointing as they were in Johannesburg the Wallabies did not deserve to lose by 45 points. Indeed if a try-line bound Lote Tuqiri had held a pass midway through the first half the game may have unfolded in a completely different direction.
As Deans has said, under the ELVs the game is very much about momentum and once one team builds it up it is very hard to turn things around.
Once a team gets on a roll � the All Blacks in Auckland, the Wallabies in Sydney, the Boks in Johannesburg � the bounce of the ball, the referee�s whistle, the rub of the green � all seem to go their way and even a very good side can suffer what looks like a blow out.
On paper tonight�s match is evenly balanced.
With Stephen Moore throwing in, the Wallabies have an edge in the lineout, while the All Blacks perhaps have an edge in the scrum. Both backlines have superbly talented flyhalves (Dan Carter and Matt Giteau) and very dangerous back threes.
The match will be decided in one crucial facet � the breakdown � and the battle between two of the great loose forwards of modern times � the Wallabies George Smith and the All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw.
This is a match up to be relished with the world record holder for caps by a loose forward, Smith, up against McCaw, who although just halfway through his career is already one of the legends of All Blacks Rugby.
Both players are in peerless form and as Smith showed in Perth against the Boks and McCaw in Auckland against the Wallabies � both can win games singlehandedly.
Both are also disciples of the Deans method � compete for the ball, at all times � McCaw for many years at the Crusaders, while Smith has only had Deans guidance this year but he is learning very fast.
Without the ball you can not score points and whoever gets on top between these two will put their side on the path to victory.
So get ready for the final twists and turns of this very twisting-turning Tri-Nations.
Both these teams, in this post-Rugby World Cup year, are at a similar formative stage of development. They have the potential to be, but are not yet, great.
Whoever has the strength of will, the boldness to trust their instincts and the courage to come out on top on Saturday night will take one big step towards that goal.
The rollercoaster is picking up speed again. Hold on !
The match is live across Australia on Fox Sports 1 and live into Brisbane and Sydney on free-to-air on Channel 7. Check out our broadcasting page for a complete broadcasting guide for all viewers across the country.
Qantas Wallabies :
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), 14. Peter Hynes (Queensland Reds), 13. Ryan Cross (Western Force), 12. Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies) (captain), 11. Lote Tuqiri (NSW Waratahs), 10. Matt Giteau (Western Force), 9. Sam Cordingley (Queensland Reds), 8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), 7. George Smith (Brumbies), 6. Rocky Elsom (NSW Waratahs), 5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), 4. James Horwill (Queensland Reds), 3. Al Baxter (NSW Waratahs), 2. Stephen Moore (Queensland Reds), 1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs).
16. Adam Freier (NSW Waratahs), 17. Matt Dunning (NSW Waratahs), 18. Hugh McMeniman (Queensland Reds), 19. Phil Waugh (NSW Waratahs), 20. Richard Brown (Western Force), 21. Brett Sheehan (NSW Waratahs), 22. Drew Mitchell (Western Force).
15 Mils Muliaina (Chiefs), 14 Richard Kahui (Chiefs), 13 Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), 12 Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes), 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu (Chiefs), 10 Dan Carter (Crusaders), 9 Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders), 8 Rodney So'oialo (Hurricanes), 7 Richie McCaw (Crusaders)(captain), 6 Jerome Kaino (Blues), 5 Ali Williams (Crusaders), 4 Brad Thorn (Crusaders), 3 Greg Somerville (Crusaders), 2 Andrew Hore (Hurricanes), 1 Tony Woodcock (Blues).
16 Keven Mealamu (Blues), 17 John Afoa (Blues)/Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes), 18 Anthony Boric (Blues), 19 Adam Thomson (Highlanders), 20 Piri Weepu (Hurricanes), 21 Stephen Donald (Chiefs), 22 Isaia Toeava (Blues).
Date: Saturday, September 13
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20.00 AEST (22.00 NZT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Gold out the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium � visitWallabyShopto purchase your official Wallabies jerseys, beanies and scarves.