The sight of big backrower Radike Samo palming off an All Blacks tackler and then evading two speedy backs as he hared 60 meters to score in the Tri-Nations decider last weekend is the kind of image that has given Australian rugby fans renewed hope for the World Cup.
The big Fiji-born No.8 with the wild, frizzy hair had been recalled to Australia's starting XV for the first time since 2004, primarily to add some starch to a forward pack that was overwhelmed by the New Zealanders in their previous Tri-Nations match at Auckland three weeks earlier.
It worked. Not only did the 35-year-old Samo help give the Wallabies go-forward momentum and a 20-3 half-time lead, his heavy defending shut down some promising All Blacks attacking opportunities and, undoubtedly, inflicted pain on the New Zealanders. It was Australia's best half of rugby in a decade.
Samo's try was the second of three for the Wallabies in a seesawing 25-20 victory that secured them the Tri-Nations title for the first time in a decade and sent the All Blacks into the World Cup on back-to-back away losses to defending champion South Africa and Australia.
And it sent the trans-Tasman commentariat into an excited frenzy about the prospect of a rematch in the October 23 World Cup final.
Under Robbie Deans, though, talk of anything beyond the group stage inside the Wallabies camp is considered very, very premature.
"It's obviously a significant result for us. We haven't done that since 2001," Deans said of the Tri-Nations title victory. "In terms of the World Cup, it's irrelevant. If anything, we've probably just put the bar up to that end. But we'll take some real value out of it, no doubt about that."
The Australians open their World Cup campaign against Italy on September 11, six days before their biggest Group C clash against Ireland, which is coming off four straight defeats in warm-up matches. Matches against lowly-ranked United States and Russia lead into the quarterfinals. Winning the group would mean the Australians most likely avoid top-ranked New Zealand or defending champion South Africa unless they reach the final.
Deans, a former All Black and one of the most successful coaches ever produced by New Zealand, is definitely back in favor in Australia, where he became the first foreign head coach of the Wallabies. He was headhunted following the Wallabies' disappointing quarterfinal loss in the 2007 World Cup and given a brief to make them contenders for the 2011 edition.
His stock has risen and waned in the interim while introducing dozens of players into the test arena trying to unearth the next generation of stars. It hit a lowpoint when Australia opened the season with a shocking, upset loss to Samoa in Sydney, when he rested most of the stars of Queensland's Super 15-winning team.
But rather than the coach, it was 92-test veteran Matt Giteau who paid the price for that one, missing selection for the Tri-Nations series and the World Cup.
With flyhalf Quade Cooper directing traffic, and up-and-coming utilities James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale in the starting XV, Giteau was pushed to the fringes.
The Wallabies calmly dispatched a second-string South Africa lineup 39-20 to open the Tri-Nations in Sydney, but were totally outclassed in a 30-14 loss to the All Blacks - fielding the most experienced test team ever -two weeks later.
Since then, though, a gritty 14-9 win in Durban against the most seasoned XV the Springboks have ever fielded was followed by the win over New Zealand.
Scrumhalf Will Genia scored the first try from close range on Saturday and - after the All Blacks scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to level it 20-20 - created the winning try for Beale with another darting run from the base of a ruck to underline how dangerous he is to defending teams that become too focussed on the free spirited backline outside him.
Australia's composure against the All Blacks' comeback was the most pleasing thing for Deans.
"The momentum in the game changed. The All Blacks got back on top and looked ominous. But these blokes really kept their nerve, got their hands on the ball and produced enough pressure to get the result," he said. "That was an important step for us."
Deans has made some big calls this season.
Within the space of weeks in August, he had his coaching contract extended until 2013 - regardless of what happens at the World Cup - had confirmed that Giteau didn't figure in his Cup calculations and ditched Rocky Elsom as captain, ostensibly so the flanker could concentrate on his game.
The obvious fallout from that is Elsom's place in the starting lineup is not guaranteed, particularly with Scott Higginbotham waiting in the wings. Elsom responded with his best game of the season against the All Blacks and later watched as towering lock James Horwill held aloft the Tri-Nations trophy in his first match as Wallabies captain.
It was the second of the southern hemisphere's two major trophies that Horwill hoisted in Brisbane this year, after he led the Reds to the Super Rugby title with a win the final over a Crusaders lineup containing All Blacks forward pack and backline fulcrums Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.
The Reds combination of Samo, Genia and Cooper at No.8, 9 and 10 and Horwill in charge now is the nucleus of Deans' Australian lineup, supplemented by the likes of Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper and 21-year-old O'Connor - if he earns a recall to the starting lineup after being suspended for a match for oversleeping and missing two team functions. The return lock Dan Vickerman, who missed three years of international rugby while studying in England, has also helped give the Australian pack a harder edge.
"Any time you beat the All Blacks, you've got to give yourself a pat on the back," Cooper said. "The performance that we put out there as a team gives us a lot of confidence moving forward.
"If we're lucky enough to make it to the World Cup final, I'm sure they'll be raring to get one back on us. Likewise here, we'll be doing everything we can to continue the momentum. We're slowly getting there."
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The Barbarians are one of the top invitational rugby sides with a long history and classic rugby jersey.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Lions get ready for their matches with this green training jersey. It's what the players wear. Get in the Gear!
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The Lions are ready to get their Australia tour underway. They arrive in Perth on Monday.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.