Cheika calls for men­tal strength ahead of tough Bloem Test

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT -

KURTLEY BEALE’S re­turn to top form ap­pears to be lit­tle more than co­in­ci­den­tal as Aus­tralia gear up to face a wounded South Africa side in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship in Bloem­fontein next week.

Beale smashed over a lon­grange penalty in the fi­nal minute of the Wal­la­bies clash against the Spring­boks at the same venue in 2010 to give the visi­tors a 41-39 vic­tory, the last time the two sides met in the Free State cap­i­tal.

The win was their first over the Spring­boks on the highveld since 1963 and just their third in ei­ther Jo­han­nes­burg, Pre­to­ria or Bloem­fontein since 1933.

The only other wins in 21 tests at al­ti­tude in South Africa were a 15-4 tri­umph in Bloem­fontein in 1933 and an 11-9 vic­tory in Jo­han­nes­burg 30 years later, but Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika said con­di­tions had noth­ing to do with the poor re­sults.

“I just think it might be in our head,” Cheika told re­porters at Syd­ney Air­port yes­ter­day, re­fer­ring to the team’s abysmal record at high al­ti­tude.

“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,” he added of the 10 vic­to­ries in 44 tests in the Repub­lic.

“And if we want to take step­ping stones to be a bet­ter team, we’ve got to be able to be men­tally strong enough.”

Beale has proved his men­tal tough­ness af­ter a lengthy break due to in­jury and af­ter a con­fused de­fen­sive per­for­mance against the All Blacks in their open­ing Rugby Cham­pi­onship clash, he has been in ca­reer-best form for the Wal­la­bies ever since.

Cheika praised Beale af­ter the 23-23 draw with the Spring­boks in Perth two weeks ago and hoped his in­flu­ence might rub off on his team-mates.

The Wal­la­bies, who had lost their open­ing two Cham­pi­onship fix­tures against the All Blacks, re­sponded last week as they pro­duced a strong sec­ond­half per­for­mance to run out 45-20 vic­tors over the Pumas in Can­berra.

Cheika, how­ever, said his side needed to con­tinue with the up­ward pro­gres­sion against the Spring­boks.

“You’ve just got to go there and do you best,” he said.

“For us, it’s just about this group of play­ers get­ting a bit smarter, play­ing a bit more con­sis­tently then we’ll see where we land.”

While they bat­tle their own demons with con­sis­tency, Cheika was also well aware the Spring­boks had been hu­mil­i­ated 57-0 by the All Blacks last week in Auck­land and would be look­ing to re­store some pride next Satur­day.

The Wal­la­bies, who will base them­selves in Jo­han­nes­burg be­fore trav­el­ling to Bloem­fontein later in the week for the clash, are third in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship on eight points, three be­hind the Spring­boks.

World cham­pi­ons New Zealand have 19 points and can win their sec­ond suc­ces­sive ti­tle with vic­tory over the Pumas in Buenos Aires later on the same day. – Reuters TO PARA­PHRASE Bulls coach John Mitchell, it will be dif­fi­cult for the Sharks to mess it up from here in their march to the Cur­rie Cup play-offs and be­yond af­ter they had pro­duced an­other com­mand­ing per­for­mance at Kings Park yes­ter­day.

This time the Sharks had to con­tend with the per­sis­tent rain as well as the burly Bulls and thor­oughly dom­i­nated the vis­it­ing for­wards to pro­vide young fly­half Cur­win Bosch the plat­form to ex­hibit some out­ra­geous skills. We yes­ter­day surely saw a star Bok fly­half in the mak­ing.

“The Sharks are well set,” Mitchell said. “They de­serve to be where they are. Long ago I thought they would be the team to beat in this year’s Cur­rie Cup be­cause they have such a good bal­ance in their team.”

Long be­fore kick-off it was ev­i­dent that the game would be ru­ined as a spec­ta­cle of run­ning rugby, with cur­tains of rain drench­ing Kings Park from lunch time yes­ter­day.

Nev­er­the­less there was some slick work from the Sharks, no­tably the won­der­fully im­pres­sive try by Sbu Nkosi who out on the wing

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