All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has urged disenchanted Australian rugby fans to keep supporting the Wallabies despite their Bledisloe Cup drought.
New Zealand have held the trophy since 2003 and Australia last won the series outright in 2001.
The Wallabies win in their most recent encounter was only their second in their last 19 contests against the world champions.
With the lack of success compared to Australia’s glory days at the turn of the century, crowds in Sydney have dropped off significantly since then, with next Saturday’s attendance at ANZ Stadium expected to fall well short of the venue’s 80,000 plus capacity.
“I think that’s the local fans probably feeling like they’ve moved away from Australian rugby and they shouldn’t do that,” Hansen said upon the All Blacks arrival in Sydney on Sunday evening,
“The Australian team, I believe anyway, is a really good side and they should keep supporting them.”
Hansen stressed the traditional trans-Tasman rivalry remained relevant despite the lop-sided results of recent years, describing it as “semi-family-like.
“Little brother always likes to beat big brother and big brother doesn’t like losing to little brother, so that keeps the competition alive,” he said.
“Then players, particularly, get to understand the history of the Bledisloe and they take a pride in that.”
Most of the current Wallabies were still at school when Australia last held the Bledisloe.
They would recall Australia ruling the roost at the start of the millennium having won the 1999 World Cup, a series against the British and Irish Lions in 2001, in addition to holding the Bledisloe at the start of the 21st century.
“I really enjoyed going out and watching the Wallabies obviously in a golden era back then and winning lots of games,” back Reece Hodge said.
“We were just talking about it during the week, how big the crowds were and how much the support was behind Australia especially when we doing well.
“We want to be the ones to change that and to bring that kind of support and attitude back to Australian rugby.”
Hansen said it looked increasingly like versatile Melbourne Rebels back Hodge would fill the Wallabies’ No.13 jersey next Saturday.
“You’d call him a utility player and because of that he gets moved around a lot so it’s probably to his disadvantage,” Hansen said.
“But at the same time he’s a pretty handy footballer.”