Fighting talk from Wallaby coach
REACTION: There was plenty of fighting talk from Wallaby coach Michael Cheika in the build-up to their opening Test of the year.
Cheika suggested Australia’s rise back to the top of the game’s totem pole starts Ellis Park on Saturday – where they face a ‘second-string’ South African team.
The Wallabies had a disastrous season in 2018, winning only four of their 13 matches played.
It saw them drop out of the top five.
Cheika suggested the team named on Thursday is better than their underdog status suggests.
“We really want to begin building momentum to take us towards our goals in 2019,” the Wallaby coach told a media briefing.
“The players are impatient to play at Ellis Park, where our Wallabies haven’t had an opportunity to play for quite a while.”
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The Wallabies last won at Ellis Park in 1963 and have since lost six times at the venue – with their most recent appearance an 8-53 loss in 2008.
Their last win in South Africa was in Durban in 2011, although Cheika’s men managed a 27-all draw in Bloemfontein in 2017.
“We know we go into the game as heavy underdogs, but most of the players have had a touch over three great weeks of training to prepare,” he said.
“So really they just can’t wait to get out and get into the battle.”
Cheika said starting XV will put up a performance Australians can be proud of.
“This week we picked a side we feel will go out there and represent Australia to its best ability,” the coach said.
“We know a lot of people aren’t giving us much of a chance this season, but I believe in our players,” he said.
“We know that every player who goes out in the jersey is going to do whatever it takes,” Cheika told reporters at the team announcement in Johannesburg on Thursday.
He said he is confident the team will do really well.
“It is a big occasion and we selected a team for it,” he said of the Ellis Park showdown.
“We know we are coming from well behind,” Cheika said, adding: “We spoke about it and what we need to do this year to earn respect.
“We haven’t played at Ellis Park in 11 years and the last time wasn’t a great day for us,” he said of the 8-53 loss in 2008.
“Our goal is to turn that around.
“A lot has been said about rugby in Australia in the last six months.
“This is where we want to show what Australian Rugby is about, on the field.
“We are going to put everything out there.”
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