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Why ‘proud’ Australian Michael Cheika has no sympathy for Wallabies

By Finn Morton
Pumas Coach Michael Cheika (C) shakes hands with Wallabies Coach Eddie Jones prior to The Rugby Championship match between the Australia Wallabies and Argentina at CommBank Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika is “proud” to be an Australian, but that doesn’t mean he has any sympathy for the Wallabies after they fell to their second loss in as many Tests.

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After leading the NSW Waratahs to their first-ever Super Rugby crown in 2014, Cheika signed a three-year deal with Rugby Australia and the Wallabies.

Ewan McKenzie stepped away from his position as the coach of the Australian national team. Suddenly, with the upcoming Rugby World Cup in England just around the corner, the Wallabies were without a coach.

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But Cheika was a logical choice to succeed McKenzie in the role.

Cheika came in and led the Wallabies to their first World Cup final since 2003 – the men in gold fell short of glory, losing 34-17 to arch-rivals New Zealand at Twickenham.

While the dreams of ending long-lasting Bledisloe Cup pain and other droughts continued to allude Cheika’s Wallabies, the coach did an admirable job.

But, after losing to England in the quarter-finals of the 2019 tournament in Japan, Cheika’s time was up. An opportunity with the Green Rockets in Japan awaited the coach.

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New Zealand-born coach Dave Rennie replaced Cheika within the Wallabies setup, and he’s since been replaced by Eddie Jones.

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But Cheika found his way back to international sport with Argentina – and briefly with Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup last year before returning to Los Pumas.

Cheika and Los Pumas recorded a famous win over the Wallabies on Saturday evening. Backrower Juan Martin Gonzalez scored a last-minute winner, which saw the Wallabies fall to their second consecutive loss under new coach Eddie Jones.

As the Argentina players rejoiced post-game, so did Cheika, and rightly so. The Australian is no longer the coach of the Wallabies and has no “sympathy” for them as they continue to struggle.

“I don’t think you have sympathy for your opponents, that would be not very cool on my end,” Cheika told reporters after the Test. “I’m looking after my fellas.

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“I know I’m an Aussie and I’m proud to be that person but, and I’ve said it before, these are my guys now and I love them.

“Anytime we win we want to be happy but also respectful. I don’t think we disrespectful at all, we just got the win. We earnt it too.

“You’re saying, ‘am I thinking about the opposition?’ It’s not really my thing, I’m thinking more about our fellas.”

Argentina started their Rugby Championship campaign with a tough loss to the red-hot All Blacks in Mendoza earlier this month.

But they moved on and set their sights on the Wallabies.

Following a week of training in the eastern suburbs of Sydney – an area that Cheika knows very well – the Pumas were met by a passionate cheer as they ran out onto the field at CommBank Stadium.

The Argentina fans were small in number, but more than made up for it was a deafening series of cheers, cries and chants.

It was brilliant. It’s why we love sport.

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Australia shot out of the blocks with an early try to centre Len Ikitau, but the 24-year-old left the field shortly after with a devastating injury.

Los Pumas fought their way back, and were leading the Test as the clock ticked by the 70 minute mark.

But Australia weren’t going to throw in the towel. Winger Mark Nawaqanitawase intercepted a pass and ran coast-to-coast as he gave the hosts the lead with just a few minutes left on the clock.

Disaster had struck for the visitors.

But their never-say-die attitude served them well, with star backrower Juan Martin Gonzalez scoring the go-ahead try in the 79th minute.

The Argentina fans, players and coaches went berserk. But Cheika wants them to “keep getting better.”

“We made some clangers tonight as well that led directly to tries” the former Wallabies coach added.

“Just little things around discipline in the system… even just the basics of (the) defensive system like when Nic White scored.

“When you’re starting a season like we are, we’re sort of starting the season now, you’ve got to go through that, as I said before, that agitation.

“Those things, even though they’re bad in the game, they’ll be good for us in the long run.”

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Comments

5 Comments
R
Ruby 360 days ago

Should've kept Rennie, they might not have had a winning record but they were looking better and better every game.

J
John 361 days ago

Cheika did an admirable job! I don’t think so. Inept performances, selections and game plans. Took the Wallabies from 2 in the world to 7, created a self entitled culture that exists today and lost every game in 2018. A good motivator but an absolute disaster of a coach

c
cs 361 days ago

Can we have him back?

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