Australia's horror injury toll is looming as Wallabies coach Robbie Deans's 'get out of jail free' card.
Under immense pressure to keep his job for next year's eagerly-anticipated British and Irish Lions tour, Deans has little certainty about his immediate future despite a two-year contract which takes him through to the end of 2013.
The Wallabies remain the No.2-ranked team in world rugby but listless back-to-back losses to the All Blacks last month, a stodgy style of play, inconsistency in selections, and boilovers by Scotland, Samoa and Ireland in the past two years sees the New Zealander skating on thin ice.
Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill, who controversially recontracted Deans before last year's disappointing World Cup display, had stressed a first Bledisloe Cup triumph in a decade was a key for the Wallabies.
That they never got close - highlighted by a 22-0 drubbing in the second Test in Auckland - means that one more harrowing defeat, like an upset by Argentina this Saturday on the Gold Coast, could sound a death knell.
But the rapid turnarounds between Tests for the rest of the year, giving little time for a new coach to put his stamp on the team, may see any decision delayed until the end of the year, or at least before the four-Test November tour of Europe.
Leading contender Ewen McKenzie, contracted to Queensland until 2014, says he hasn't been contacted by the ARU which suggests an immediate dismissal is unlikely.
Giving Deans extra wriggle room is the large number, and high quality, of players on the sidelines.
Injuries are a natural part of the attrition of contact sport but the Wallabies have endured wretched luck in 2012 with nine players of their best 22 currently unavailable.
Included in that number are arguably their four most influential and inspirational players - leadership trio James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, and versatile backline star James O'Connor.
With eight Tests still to play in 2012, O'Connor could return for the third Bledisloe game on October 20 but the three captains won't return to action until next year.
Without the playing stocks of New Zealand and South Africa, who both boast quality third-tier provincial competitions, Deans does have an alibi.
But there's no excuses coming from Wallabies players who are backing their maligned depth.
"Injuries are a nature of the beast but we have got just a great bunch of players who can step up at any time," said hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
"As you can see (winger) Dom Shipperley last week (against South Africa) stepping up and producing one of the best debuts I've ever seen.
"We have the depth so there's no questions about having the capability to play to the best of our ability."
Second-placing in the Rugby Championship, with two wins from the next three Tests, should see Deans fight to the end of the year, before Spring Tour results - against France, England, Italy and Wales - have the final word.