Rugby: Cheika shrugs off Super slump

Michael Cheika
Michael Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika isn't concerned about the standing of the Australian Super Rugby sides in this year's competition as he tries to plot a successful defence of the Rugby Championship.

The Brumbies, among the pre-season favourites in this year's expanded competition, top the Australian Conference but have largely unflattered and were badly off the pace against the Blues on Friday night. The Waratahs have only recently found some form after a slow start. Both were in playoff contention heading into this weekend's penultimate round but the other Australian teams make up three of the bottom seven.

To make matters worse, the Wallabies were beaten 3-0 by England in June - the first time England had won a series in Australia.

It prompted some such as former Wallabies fullback Matt Burke to bemoan the lack of depth in Australian rugby, believing there weren't enough good players to sustain five franchises, but Cheika isn't worried.

"No, not in the context of the table," he said in an interview to be aired on Newstalk ZB today.

"A couple of years ago, there was some chat from New Zealand about how the Super Rugby teams weren't killing it but then your national team still killed it. Until Super Rugby has a format where everyone plays everyone, it's hard to tell.

"One thing that's unquestionable is that the New Zealand teams have played very well. They have come out of the blocks hard and are playing good football. And they have a lot of good players coming through.

"It's one thing we have always known about New Zealand but I think they have shown it again this year."

Cheika was seen as a coach with a golden touch after taking over the national team towards the end of 2014, guiding Australia to the Rugby Championship title under an abbreviated format and then the World Cup final. He was also named the World Rugby Coach of the Year, although many believe that New Zealand's Steve Hansen deserved that accolade. Australia beat the All Blacks 27-19 in Sydney to claim the Rugby Championship with three wins from three but were thumped 41-13 the following weekend at Eden Park.

The two teams kick off this year's Rugby Championship when they play in Sydney on August 20 and will face each other three times this year.

The Wallabies will continue to develop a style under Cheika he hopes will bring sustained success.

"One thing you might be able to see is that we are playing rugby in a certain way," he said.

"We are playing at the international level with a running style - we are not kicking a lot - so that's very much in our mind.

"We have slowly pushed that out to our Super Rugby teams and down into club teams. That does not happen overnight. We are preparing for the future."

- Herald on Sunday

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