Cheika pinpoints what went wrong with Waratahs
REACTION: Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and proud club man Morgan Turinui have dissected the NSW Waratahs’ season from hell.
The rampant Chiefs consigned the Waratahs to a historic winless campaign with a 40-7 beating at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.
Wing Sean Wainui bagged a record five tries as the Waratahs slumped to an Australian-record 13th consecutive defeat.
Turinui feels for the greenhorn line-up and interim co-coaches Chris Whitaker and Jason Gilmore, who inherited a team of largely Super Rugby novices after Rob Penney was sacked mid-season.
Penney, too, had little to work with after more than 1800 caps in Super Rugby experience, including Test captain Michael Hooper and fellow Wallabies stars Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu ventured overseas.
Former chief executive Andrew Hoare and Daryl Gibson – after four years as head coach – both departed the Waratahs at the end of 2019, the mass exodus leaving the once-champion franchise in tatters.
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“Let’s not forget that the real reason the Waratahs have struggled this year is four years of mismanagement of lists – recruitment, retention, talent identification pathways,” Turinui said on Stan Sport.
“We’re judging them on on-field performance on the back of that. So that’s the context, right.”
Former Waratahs and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who guided NSW to their first and only Super Rugby crown in 2014, implored hierarchy to pin their faith in the young brigade led by goalkicking playmaker Will Harrison.
“There is a core group of players that are here at the Waratahs right now that they need to keep and bring through because the scars of the grief that they’ve been getting will be the birth of the successes that they will have later on because they won’t want to go through this again,” Cheika said.
“It’s that simple. If you do and you want to sit through that again, then you don’t deserve that contract.
“I’m sure guys like Will Harrison – and there’s a group of eight or nine of them – that they need to keep rolling so those scars turn into the success of later years.”
After questioning whether the Waratahs were in denial about their defensive issues last week, Cheika doubled down after they conceded 265 points in their five Trans-Tasman losses to New Zealand opposition.
“I just think defence is an integral part of the spiritual side of your team, where the energy comes from and where the long game is won,” he said.
“And I think perhaps they ignored that a little bit and you don’t hear a lot of commentary about it.
“They have obviously [spoken of defence] in training and that. I understand that. I’ve been in there, I’ve been in their exact situation, getting criticised for many things.
“But I think players have to take it upon themselves to say ‘I need to make my tackles, I need to connect with my man next to me’ and that shows about spirit inside of a team.
“That’s a starting point. Then there’s obviously lots of other things. There’s no one fix.
“But one thing I’m never going to do mate, never, is be scathing about my old team because I’m a fan. I’ll be supporting them.
“I want to see them be successful as much as anyone else here who supports them, especially being a past coach and a part of it.”