Michael Cheika was under immense pressure heading into the second Bledisloe Cup game.
After a horrific performance in the majority of the first match, people were questioning his ability to coach Australia. But Cheika and his team fought back to nearly topple the All Blacks in Dunedin in what was a great showing for Australian Rugby.
You’ve got to remember Cheika’s track record. Successful stints with Leinster and the Waratahs propelled him into the top job. He is the only coach that has ever won a major club rugby competition in both hemispheres. That’s an achievement that must be recognised when assessing his ability.
WORLD CUP SUCCESS
Only brought into the Wallabies fold in late 2014 after Ewen McKenzie’s resignation, it’s easy to forget how quickly Cheika has transformed the team. With the World Cup just around the corner, you could have been excused for writing off the Wallabies in the 2015 tournament. Traditionally a coach would be with a team from the conclusion of one tournament to the next, allowing them four years to develop.
2015 may always be remembered as the year the All Blacks made it two from two. Yet it is also a year in which the Wallabies won the Rugby Championship and made it to the final of the World Cup in only Cheika’s second year as coach. As a result, he rightly earned the World Rugby Coach of the Year award, the first Australian coach to do so since 2001.
CHEIKA’S DIVISIVE PERSONALITY
Although Cheika seems brash in his interviews, this is not a reflection of his personality. This attitude is a part of his coaching style and that is perhaps a reason why he is such an effective coach.
This is why Cheika is so divisive. To some he’s a whinger, a complainer. Someone who acts and talks like a bully. But what many have chosen to ignore is Cheika’s other sides that aren’t seen through the mainstream media.
We saw a different side to his personality when he talked to an impassioned Wallabies fan after their loss to Scotland.
Most importantly, in that, Cheika saw an opportunity. He saw an opportunity to inspire the playing group. So many coaches would have ignored it, no matter how much press it received. But he engaged with the fan and used it to rejuvenate the Wallabies heading into the match against Italy.
Cheika is never going to be knighted like Graham Henry. He isn’t that type of bloke. He is someone that has that special something. It’s that something that allows him to inspire and lead men in a way that Robbie Deans and Ewen McKenzie couldn’t do.
WHAT IS CHEIKA’S FUTURE?
I’d like to hope that the ARU aren’t short-sighted in their decision making, but the Force decision shows they often are. It would be another foolish choice if they decide to sack Cheika just two years before a World Cup.
A sacking would only disrupt Australian rugby further. The lack of alternatives is also an issue. But this recent performance should put any discussion about his job security to rest – for now.
Author: David Lind
I live in Perth, Australia, but am a born and bred Kiwi. I generally spend my time between studies and running the drinks for at my cricket club. My articles on the 1014 allow me to let out my rugby feelings online rather than at my mates.