Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: What's really bugging Michael Cheika

Here's what will really be bugging angry Michael Cheika.

How the heck did Steve Hansen predict with such certainty Cheika's left-field selection in the Wallaby midfield for the Eden Park test?

Either Hansen can read Cheika's mind or - impossible as it sounds - the All Blacks have a spy close enough to the Aussie camp. Neither of these things are nice for Cheika to contemplate.

Hansen had already pinned Cheika to the ropes, opining that England coach Eddie Jones won the mind games during this year's tour of Australia. Cheika, an overtly alpha male, was told that he had been bullied. He would have felt bullied again.

Now Hansen has delivered a knockout blow, predicting the selection before the Wallabies had even got to Auckland. Cheika is so easy to wind up. This time, he has something worth getting wound up about. Cheika tried to join the mind games by delaying his selection announcement yet the All Blacks coach picked the big move in one, that rookie Reece Hodge would shift from the wing for his first start in the No.12 jersey and replace Quade Cooper in a rejigged backline.

Apparently Cheika is so security conscious that he holds ultra-secret training sessions on a need-to-know basis. But something went horribly wrong this time.

It's easy for Hansen to win the mind games now because he has the firepower, a team that can win even when it plays badly by its own standards as occurred at Eden Park.

The All Blacks were often poor yet won by 27 points over last year's World Cup finalists.

This can't be put down to bad luck, bad refereeing decisions.

Cheika made a big play about how angry he was at being portrayed as a clown in the New Zealand Herald. But watching his side compete well yet get thrashed will hurt a lot more.

The red clown's nose is a red herring. Cheika is deflecting attention away from another on-field disaster. Even if you believe the Australians were robbed of a fair try that could have given them a small lead it doesn't explain the later capitulation.

Put it this way: if the All Blacks were robbed of a try - and of course some in world rugby claim that this never happens - they would have upped the ante, got more desperate, found another gear. Australia faded in the final stretch.

Australia's squad offers decent hope, particularly if Bernard Foley can pull the strings the way he did so expertly at Eden Park. But they do have an erratic nature, and a coach with a wild temperament can't be helping.

Of the SANZAAR nations, Argentina has become a very interesting prospect but I don't see South Africa challenging the All Blacks for a long time - their corruption-soaked country can't break free of its tragic past. South Africa is in trouble, their rugby is in trouble.

Australia has talent but it needs a strategic coach and on the surface, Cheika is too much the wild gunslinger with a cabal of former Wallabies eager to join him in a dusty main street, six shooters drawn, tumbleweed everywhere. Rod Kafer - a great strategist in his day with the Brumbies - and his mates can shout all they like, but the scoreboard keeps ticking over.

And so does the All Blacks' war machine. Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett - the production line of gamebreakers is scary, the way they are introduced to test rugby apparently fail-safe.

The trans-Tasman rugby conflict is very tasty, and as a student of newspaper attacks Cheika will remember that Richie McCaw was labelled a grub during the last World Cup.

McCaw had plenty to react to in his career, and never did. He would use anything he could to silently harden the resolve and concentrate on his tasks. He was a disaster for the media, and a godsend for the All Blacks.

It's a lesson for these Wallabies. They can be good, but they weren't good enough. Not even close.

- NZ Herald

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