Master versus pupil
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP REACTION: It will be the master against the pupil when Australia host Argentina in a Round Four encounter at the Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast this coming Saturday.
Argentinean legend Mario Ezequiel Ledesma Arocena did a substantial part of his coaching apprenticeship under Wallaby mentor Michael Cheika.
After stints with Stade Français (forwards coach), Montpellier (forwards coach) and the Waratahs (coaching observer), the 45-year-old former Los Pumas hooker became Australia’s forwards coach – Cheika’s assistant – from 2015 to 2017.
However, 2018 has seen him meteorically rise through the ranks, from Jaguares coach to taking over from Daniel Hourcade.
As he did with the Jaguares, Los Pumas’ form improved under Ledesma.
They have beaten the Springboks and made the All Blacks work harder than Australia did.
On Saturday Ledesma gets a crack at Cheika’s Wallabies.
“Without a doubt, he has been a very important part in developing this [Wallaby] team,” Cheika said on the Wallabies’ official website.
“There is always going to be influence in us with him and him with us.
“But it’s a little bit different I think this week.
“You come up against guys you know in different times and there is always a bit of hedging and mind games and everything like that but not this week.
“We are too close – we are as good as family.”
Ledesma steered the Jaguares to their most successful Super Rugby season ever in just his first season in charge and perhaps most importantly, turned their previously wretched away form around.
Wins over the Rebels, Brumbies, Blues and Chiefs on either side of the ditch kicked off a seven-game winning streak through the middle of the season as Ledesma finally unlocked the untapped potential within the Jaguares.
“He has done a great job this year with everything that has happened,” Cheika said.
“In the small amount of time that he has had them he has really delivered.
“Once the whistle blows it will be war, but it’s respect before then.”
The immediate success Ledesma has enjoyed is of little surprise to Cheika, who will likely catch up with his great mate at some point this week.
“He wants to learn and he was really eager,” Cheika said of Ledesma.
“He brought a lot of new ideas and he was really passionate.
“He was a great balance between the Latin influence and the Anglo-Saxon influence.
“I think he can take that back the other way.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching his teams play since he has taken over there and I am looking forward to going up against each other.”