Waratahs losing streak no burden: Cheika
February 28, 2013
Benn Robinson has been recalled to the Waratahs' starting line-up after being benched in the opening round. © Getty Images
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika insists his side's nine-match Super Rugby losing streak is no burden as he recalled prop Benn Robinson to the starting team for Friday night's clash with Melbourne Rebels.
Cheika's coaching debut at New South Wales didn't go to plan last Saturday night when Queensland repelled a spirited fightback from the 'Tahs to win 25-17 in Brisbane.
The defeat added to the eight straight losses to finish 2012 that resulted in coach Michael Foley leaving his post and heading to Perth to take control of Western Force. But Cheika believes reflecting on the dismal second half of last season serves no purpose with the chance to forge a new culture at the Waratahs.
"It's a different season, different people, different feel," Cheika said after training on Wednesday. "The only game that counts is the next one. We're only going forward. Maybe some guys might have (the losing streak) in their head - I don't know."
The 45-year-old urged 'Tahs fans to keep the faith, warning there might be a bit of short-term pain before delivering on his promise to not only win games, but do it with a generous sprinkling of razzle-dazzle.
"One thing is for sure - there's no lack of intent and effort into the preparation that goes into winning games," Cheika said. "So we understand that it's about performing in our new way of playing that's going to be the key to winning not just this game but maybe others down the track. Sometimes there's a bit of pain to get some gain later down the track. Who knows? But I very much believe in the way we're going."
An energetic effort off the bench against the Reds was enough to convince Cheika that Robinson deserved to be recalled to the starting side. Jeremy Tilse was surprisingly preferred over the 54-Test veteran last weekend, but in one of only two changes for the Rebels clash, Robinson was named at loose-head prop for the Allianz Stadium encounter.
"He had a good impact on the game when he came on," Cheika said of Robinson. "He's a quality player. He's so experienced at international level but I still believe he's got great potential to fulfil as a player. As a front-rower he's a super skilful player on the ball and a great set-piece player."
Mitchell Chapman is the other addition to the run-on team, coming into the second-row in place of Wallabies lock Sitaleki Timani, who drops to the bench.
Israel Folau was retained at fullback despite a scrappy debut when he struggled at times with his handling and defensive positioning.
Utility back Berrick Barnes failed to recover from a knee injury and despite appearing to fall heavily at training on Wednesday, Cheika hopes he'll be right to go next weekend against the Brumbies.
The last time the Waratahs won a Super Rugby match was, incidentally, against the Rebels at Allianz Stadium last April when they triumphed 30-21.
Waratahs: Israel Folau, Tom Kingston, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Kane Douglas, Mitchell Chapman, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Replacements: John Ulugia, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September