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Cheika failing, and it's time to talk about why

That's it Cheik, teach 'em how to kick. (Image: Tim Anger)
Roar Guru
22nd August, 2016
25
2830 Reads

In the dark hours after Ewen McKenzie’s assassination the identity of his successor was already crystal clear.

Michael Cheika was the only real choice domestically. His CV was littered with success. He’d just led the Waratahs to a Super Rugby title. More importantly perhaps, he had the unequivocal support of McKenzie’s assassins.

The more cynical among us have drawn our own conclusions about that support.

Many felt exceptionally uncomfortable about the circumstances surrounding McKenzie’s resignation and voiced their concerns. Those voices were slowly drowned out by the ‘success’ of the 2015 campaigns, especially the Rugby World Cup.

Yet the success of Michael Cheika’s rein must now be very much in question. Much like Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, it just ain’t working out.

His coaching has taken the Wallabies further away from winning a Bledisloe, not closer. Both Deans and McKenzie coached sides that produced more competitive performances against the heavy weights of World Rugby.

Ironically McKenzie’s very last game in charge was a one-point loss to a Kiwi side far more formidable than the one which hopelessly outclassed the Wallabies on Saturday.

Robbie Deans was crucified after the series loss to the British Lions. Criticised for poor selections and a lack of a clear game plan, Deans went. That was despite a far more competitive record against the All Blacks than Cheika’s so far.

Cheika’s World Cup campaign was arguably deceiving. An outstanding win against a poor England. A very narrow win against Wales. A very lucky win against Scotland. No game against the Boks. A final where 34-17 accurately reflected the gulf between the All Blacks and Wallabies.

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In 2016 Cheika has lost a series to nil to England – a lesser opposition than the 2013 British Lions – with a regime totally lacking in a Plan B and selections every bit as disjointed and baffling as Deans in his day.

After Saturday, Cheika is also responsible for one of the most embarrassing sporting defeats in the country’s history. It wasn’t just the score, it was the hopeless manner of the entire farce.

Where were the signs of Cheika’s famous man management in a team full of losers lacking heart? Saturday was not a loss, it was an inept capitulation.

This is despite training together for four weeks there was no rhythm or continuity.

The game plan was confusing and inexplicable. Against England we held on to the ball too much. Against New Zealand we kicked it away over and over without any real sign of what Australia were hoping to achieve by doing this.

The lineout fell apart which was entirely predictable and only compounded the frustration of watching the ball hoofed around by a hopelessly out of form Bernard Foley.

Foley wasn’t the only out of form player selected. Tevita Kuridrani’s ongoing selection is mystifying when Samu Kerevi is such an able and in form replacement. What happened to competition for places and rewarding players in form?

One can only assume the same criticisms that Deans and McKenzie copped will be levelled at Cheika. Or they should be.

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But Cheika is a protected species in the media. The ARU is also too scared of him to demand any meaningful explanations.

And McKenzie’s assassins obviously haven’t revolted and are unlikely to any time soon.

After all, when you spot in the side is guaranteed or you’re lying in an injury ward, there is no reason to revolt.