Cheika tells Wal­la­bies to win men­tal bat­tle

Sunday News - - RUGBY - TOM DE­CENT

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.

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