Cheika tells Wallabies to win mental battle
WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika believes Australia’s lack of success in South Africa in recent years is more mental than anything else as the team departs for one of rugby’s toughest assignments, winning on the Highveld.
From 44 matches in South Africa dating back to 1933, the Wallabies have a disappointing success rate of just 23 per cent.
Their last win came seven years ago in Bloemfontein, the venue for next weekend’s Rugby Championship clash, and the team has not tasted success in South Africa on their past four visits.
Speaking at Sydney Airport before the team’s 14-hour flight to Johannesburg, Cheika said his players needed to believe they could do something not many Australian sides have done before.
‘‘I just think it might be in our head,’’ Cheika said. ‘‘You’ve just got to go there and do your best.
‘‘It’s been a while since we’ve won there and, to be honest, we haven’t accumulated a whole lot of wins over there full stop. If we want to take stepping stones to be a better team, we’ve got to be able to be mentally strong enough.
‘‘Last year we started the game really well in Pretoria. We were leading and I don’t know why we fell off.’’
Asked what is needed to win in South Africa, Cheika replied: ‘‘Concentration, focus, maybe believe that you can be in front. It’s not bad to be in front down there. It’s going to be a tough game and we know how they per- form this year. They will be stinging from the last game [57-0 loss to New Zealand], but we’ve just got to stay pretty clear with what we do.’’
The Springboks will have a point to prove against the Wallabies after they were thumped by New Zealand in what was their worst defeat.
Cheika is adamant they will come out firing and does not expect to see wholesale changes to their starting side despite the heavy loss.
‘‘I think they’ll stay solid; I can’t see them making a lot of changes,’’ Cheika said. ‘‘They’ve had a good run until last weekend, so I can’t see they’d be making changes too swiftly. They’ve had a few injuries, so maybe a couple of guys will come back in, but apart from that, they will stay the same.
‘‘I’ve been in that [losing] situ- ation, especially at half-time. Sometimes you don’t even struggle, the other mob are just bloody good and they take their chances.
‘‘How they played against New Zealand will probably be different to how they play against us.’’
The Wallabies will be sweating on the fitness of Adam Coleman, who is still suffering from a rib injury that has plagued him for the best part of the Rugby Championship.
Cheika said Adam Korczyk, the only player omitted from Australia’s squad before the twoweek tour, was unlucky not to be selected for his first major overseas trip.
‘‘I wanted to reduce the number that went on the tour,’’ Cheika said. ‘‘I wanted to do a bigger block this week so we really only needed the two packs, the extra player, barring the specialist positions. We will probably send a few more blokes home after South Africa as well.’’ The Sun-Herald
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.