New Zealand v Argentina - 2020 Tri-Nations
New Zealand v Argentina - 2020 Tri-Nations

Why the Wallabies should fear Cheika

Michael Cheika is the wildcard the Wallabies should fear most ahead of next weekend's Tri Nations clash with the Pumas.

As the Wallabies have found out too many times before, there's no bigger obstacle to winning than coming up against a scorned coach who knows everything about you.

Eddie Jones is the ultimate proof of that.

Like Cheika, he took the Wallabies to a World Cup final only to be shown the door, and he's been making Australia pay ever since - steering England to seven consecutive wins over his homeland - including last year's World Cup thumping in Japan.

There was no-one more committed to the Australian cause than Cheika when he was in charge of the Wallabies but after his messy departure, no-one should be in any doubt about where his allegiances lie now that he's working as an assistant coach with the Pumas.

 

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Just as his old Randwick teammate went all in once he was recruited by the Poms and Dave Rennie has done since being poached by Rugby Australia, Cheika's unwavering loyalty to his great mate Mario Ledesma is the guarantee he will give everything he has to the Pumas' cause - even if it means conspiring to beat the Wallabies.

That's because of the unbreakable bond the pair have formed over years of working together, first at Stade Francais then the Waratahs and finally the Wallabies when Cheika was appointed coach and he immediately hired the Argentinian to fix the Australian scrum.

Ledesma's loyalties were put to the ultimate test when the Wallabies faced Argentina in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals but he unhesitatingly committed himself to the team he was working for at the time - played a key role in Australia's win.

Now that their roles are reversed, it's Cheika who's pledged himself to helping the Pumas as best he can and his calming influence was written all over Argentina's historic 25-15 victory over the All Blacks on the weekend and the Wallabies took note.

"There were a few sort of semi trick plays that I thought had Cheika's fingerprints all over them," Australia utility back Reece Hodge said.

"He's a deep thinker about the game and I'm sure he'll have a few up his sleeve when we come up against them on Saturday."

A master motivator, Cheika was instrumental in helping instil the Argentines with the self belief they could do the unthinkable and beat the All Blacks for the first time.

The South Americans had spent months in quarantine and training bubbles so the odds seemed impossibly stacked against them, but the Pumas captain Pablo Matera said Cheika's blunt message got through.

"Seeing us as a team from the outside, he came to us on the first day and said 'hey, what are you waiting for? You've got everything - you've got big players, physical players, young players, a lot of energy, go and take it. Just take it," Matera said. "That made us believe in ourselves a lot."

If there was one single moment in Argentina's stunning upset win that encapsulated that self belief and sense of pride it was when Matera was getting grilled by referee Angus Gardner over his player's angry reaction to a teammate being slapped in the face by All Blacks hooker Dane Coles.

Pointing to the emblem on his jersey, Matera shot back: "I can't see a guy hit one of my men in the face. It's not respect, I'm playing for my country."

The Wallabies have been warned.

 

 

 

Originally published as Why the Wallabies should fear Cheika


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