Australian sides suffer from a "self-perpetuating" inferiority complex in comparison to their New Zealand counterparts in Super Rugby, former Wallaby Rod Kafer believes.
In 11 trans-Tasman meetings since the start of the season Australian sides are yet to record a win, while they combined for just three in the previous campaign.
Amid reports that at least one of the nation's Super Rugby franchises could be culled as part of a restructuring process by SANZAAR, Kafer feels his compatriots are in a downward spiral.
"All the players hear is how far ahead the Kiwi teams are and eventually, as resistant as you try to be as a player, those things over time seep in, through the smallest cracks in a player's psyche," said Kafer, a 12-time international.
"You get the sense that our decline in performance, particularly against New Zealand sides, has unfortunately been consistent over the past three years. It's almost in the Australian psyche now, that deferment to New Zealand, and it becomes self-perpetuating.
"What we have to do is find a way to break that cycle and remove their grip from our throats."
However, Kafer does not think the uncertainty surrounding the future of Australia's five teams is to blame for their disappointing start to the year.
"Our performances against New Zealand teams have declined over a period of time, I'd say the past three years," he said.
"Of course there's going to be uncertainty around the competition, but if anything that gives the players opportunities to be inspired and to play as if their lives depended on it."