Cheika ready for a street fight

Brenden Nel

As the Springboks look to continue their momentum and feed off the high of beating the All Blacks in New Zealand, they should beware a desperate, unorthodox Wallabies coach whose job may be on the line in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Michael Cheika will do anything to win.

In much the same way as Rassie Erasmus was under pressure in Wellington, with the vultures swirling above his head, Cheika arrives in Nelson Mandela Bay with all the attributes of a dead man walking.

The Australian media are calling for his head due to a losing streak against the All Blacks that has almost stretched back a generation, and a Wallaby crisis of form that in some ways mirrors the Boks in recent years. Cheika has the added problem that he is seen as a maverick, a renegade, and someone who delights in getting on the wrong side of people.

He is abrasive. After last year’s corresponding Test in Bloemfontein, journalist Simnikiwe Xabanisa humbly suggested that Dillyn Lleyds’ hair had been pulled by Israel Folau – Cheika flew into him, and asked whether he had ever played rugby. And then, despite all the video evidence in the world, continued to suggest that there was never a hair-pulling incident.

This is the same coach that verbally abused a SuperSport cameraman, and who is regularly seen flying off the handle in the coaching box. He’s had enough meltdowns to compile a youtube montage.

But this week he is desperate.

There is something different to his demeanour and he is fighting a fight on all fronts to keep his job. The Australian Rugby Union have had to publicly come out and support him – and anyone who knows anything about sporting contracts knows that can be a kiss of death in itself.

The Wallabies have now lost to the Pumas at home and one win from their next two matches in the Rugby Championship is probably the bare minimum if Cheika is to see out his contract until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The point is that all the focus will be on the Springboks this week. After all, they have just beaten the world champions. They are the ones on a high and they have an expectant home base not only looking forward to continuing the current winning streak against Australia in South Africa, but also with one eye on the return showdown against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld next week.

The pressure is on the Boks as well to back it up with a second performance to prove that Wellington was not a fluke, and while all the attention is on them, Cheika is crafting a smash-and-grab game plan to ambush the Boks. Winning is the only thing that matters to Cheika at this point and if he has to stomp on everything to get there, he will.

A Kiwi newspaper once labelled Cheika a “clown” but he is far from that. He’s a street fighter with the outlook that attack is the best form of defence and that no matter what the evidence, he will defend his team.

Cheika knows there is only one way to stop the axe coming down on his neck. He knows that the Wallabies’ position at seventh spot in the world rankings is something that will be used against him, and he knows that – as was the case in Brisbane earlier this month – burgling a win against the Boks is his only option.

“Everyone loves to look back because you can pick the bones out of that, whether it’s positive or negative,” said the embattled Wallabies coach. “The real art is to look forward because that’s all that counts – that next game.”

Cheika will have the Wallabies scrapping for any advantage this weekend. His job depends on it, and you can be sure he’s ready to fight.

- Brenden Nel

Let's chat

  • Chris Mouton

    This is the game of the weekend as both coaches are under pressure. Sure, Cheika is under more pressure as they lost the last time they played, but Rassie is under pressure to have a consistent performance. The Springboks showed what they can do against the All Blacks and the general expectation from the public would be that they beat the Wallabies and improve on their performance. I personally can’t wait!

    • Vossie

      Don’t even want it to be a close encounter, we have to destroy them!

  • John Comyn

    Anything less than a big win with a bonus point won’t be good enough. We then need to hope that the AB’s come away from Argentina with 4 points. Then it’s game on come a week from now. Stranger things have happened.

    • Graham

      If the ABs win this weekend its championship in the bag. We would need to win both games with a bonus point and reverse a +70 point deflect to beat NZ to the title

      • John Comyn

        Yep I know it’s wishful thinking. Just so gatvol of the AB’s winning this thing long before they even play the last game.

        • Vossie

          Even if they win the trophy before Loftus and we manage to beat them, they will lift the trophy knowing that they couldn’t beat the Boks in 2018, will take that any day of the week!

          • Chiefy

            Absolutely true. A championship win, having lost to the Springboks twice will be a very hollow victory for the ABs.

    • Winston

      Why should new Zealand come away with 4 points? Both assistant referees are South African!

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