Cheika striving for consistency from Wallabies
MICHAEL Cheika has addressed the erratic rhythm of Australian rugby ... it shouldn't take a torrent of public criticism after a woeful performance to stir a brilliant one.
Consistency has long been the bane of Wallabies sides, a coach-killing quality where players seem to have imbibed a killer elixir of hardcore attitude for one or two Tests then roll into the next as if they've been sipping too many frothy milkshakes.
The Wallabies coach wants to make the fibre shown in the recent 35-29 loss to the All Blacks the standard to build on, not a level that only comes around a couple of times a season.
The five-try showing in Dunedin came after a week of scathing criticism from dismayed rugby fans, the media and all-sports figures following a lamentable 54-34 thrashing in Sydney.
Cheika is proud of the character shown on Kiwi soil, where the Wallabies had not won in 16 years, but he never wants it to only be stirred by a reactionary trigger.
That's one reason why fronting up to the reinvigorated Springboks and winning Saturday night's Test in Perth needs to be a measure of where his remodelled team is heading.
"That is the key to rugby getting back to the (right) level in this country as a whole, delivering every week," Cheika said.
"That's not being content to sit on the back of one happy performance because chaps aren't throwing eggs at you that week.
"Do it because you want to every single time.
"When you put on the jersey the intensity you bring to the game should belie the result.
"Obviously, you want the result but it should transcend everything.
"People want to see us fully committed and fully committed every week, no self-doubt."
Cheika has captured that before with the seven-win streak running into the excellent World Cup campaign in 2015 but too often since it has been one or two steps forward and then a tumble backwards.
Cheika is pleased he is seeing the bar raised with healthy competition in the squad through the example of 82-Test prop Sekope Kepu, who has earned back his starting jersey from Allan Alaalatoa for Saturday night.
"We are trying to build the competition for places and that change wouldn't have been made if Sekope hadn't lifted his game to some of his best in Test footy," Cheika said of Kepu's second-half impact off the bench in Dunedin.
The Springboks were a basket case at times last year with just four wins from 12 Tests, a head coach under siege in Allister Coetzee, an indecisive style and even a fading of South Africa's renowned physical presence.
A run of five Test wins this year has prompted optimism in the Boks camp and new assistant coaches Franco Smith (backs and attack) and Brendan Venter (defence and exits) can take plenty of the credit for a clearer game structure. Neither were on deck when the Wallabies outplayed the Boks in Pretoria last October but still managed to lose 18-10 by blundering away chances.
The attitude that Cheika talks of with relish isn't just for the physical challenge but the personal standards of nailing catch-and-pass moments and try chances to clinically put a top rival away.