Lessons learned but Wallabies' final examination awaits

Let's hope Michael Cheika learnt a valuable lesson from the Wallabies' encouraging Test win in Mendoza.

Australia's most coherent performance of 2017 came after Cheika at long last showed some sanity and clarity at the selection table -- when for the first time in his 40 Tests as Wallabies head coach he chose the same starting XV for consecutive internationals.

The master of chopping and changing Test line-ups has created an ever-moving and ever-bewildered Wallabies squad -- involving players who have absolutely no idea where they stand with their coach.

Such uncertainty can provide an edge. But it hasn't with this group, as numerous players have shown off all the frailties that come from not believing that those above you have full confidence in your abilities. General nervousness can lead to flighty and often underwhelming performances.

Among the reasons behind Australia's recent poor Test efforts is that players have little understanding of what others around them can do -- because combinations all over the field have often been dismantled well before they've been able to cohere. All great sporting partnerships need time to mature.

Footballers like to be rewarded, and so much goodwill can be generated by a coach showing faith in a team that appears to be improving. There were positive signs in the Wallabies' draw against South Africa in Bloemfontein the previous weekend. Irritated that they were unable to finish off the Springboks, the Wallabies team wanted another chance while overseas to show that they have advanced from the mess they were in during the June internationals and the opening Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney.

Cheika picked up the vibe, backed his players and thankfully went for the same side for Mendoza. Choosing an unchanged XV is usually ignored. Not this time -- as it was a Cheika rarity -- even being mentioned in the official team media release issued by the Australian Rugby Union late last week.

The players then responded to being allowed the luxury of having a second game together. It wasn't a perfect performance, but it was at least cohesive, and had its many passionate moments to provide some hope that players with promise are starting to feel comfortable in big positions. Players also performed as if they were at ease with those around them.

Defeating Argentina -- even a lacklustre outfit such as the 2017 Pumas -- in their own country is not easy, as it involves endless travel, logistical problems and a feeling that everyone is out to get you. So, the Wallabies should take a 17-point victory which enabled them to finish second in the Rugby Championship as an achievement.

The authority came from the senior team figures. Will Genia provided the direction from the scrum-base, Tatafu Polota-Nau scarified anything that came near him and Michael Hooper was forever assertive.

The enthusiasm came from several newcomers who seized their opportunities. That hasn't always been the case with Wallabies novices this season, with numerous youngsters wasting the moment, even though they've been given more than one chance to make a position theirs.

Before the game, blindside flanker Jack Dempsey said he wanted to have more touches than in Bloemfontein, which was fair enough as he was fairly quiet on the veldt. He went after the work in Mendoza. It came, leading to easily the best Wallaby blindside flanker performance of the season.

It was so rousing to at last sight the Wallabies No. 6 jersey in open play, and the person wearing it making an impact. And off the bench, the angular, powerful Lukhan Tui looked as if he could provide answers to Australia's back-row dilemmas.

On the wings it appears that finally Australia have two assured, fearless finishers. Reece Hodge was close to Australia's best -- being involved in almost all of the Wallabies best attacking manoeuvres -- while Marika Koroibete backed up his excellent first-up effort against the Springboks by finding the line in the first half to boast three tries after just two starting Tests.

Now the next crucial step.

Cheika must keep the same XV for a third Test running. They certainly showed enough in Mendoza to warrant taking on the All Blacks in Brisbane on October 21.