Tahs improving where needed - Cheika
April 20, 2013
Israel Folau was named Man of the Match © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika refused to get carried away with his team's performance to defeat the defending Super Rugby champions in Sydney on Friday night.
Cheika has played down his side's finals aspirations all season, but his charges now are seventh on the ladder after 10 rounds and within striking distance of the playoffs having won four of their first eight matches.
"I still haven't seen the table," Cheika said at the press conference after the waratahs had beaten the Chiefs 25-20 at Allianz Stadium. "I never actually said that we don't want to make the finals. I said 'I've never looked at the table'. And I still won't look at the table because looking at the table is not going to do anything for me is it? If I watch the game, study the team, try to make the team to get a bit better and help us to get there, then you might open your eyes one day and you might be in the top six; you never know but for us that's not even in the mindset at the moment."
Cheika said of his side's three-tries-to-two victory over the high-flying Chiefs: "I thought the area that we said we needed to improve to become capable of winning a match like that - I think we improved on them. The contact area was very good, our defence improved, but I think we can still be a bit more dominant; we gave minimum opportunities in transition, and when we made breaks we generally capitalised ... we're starting to build some belief in ourselves."
Cheika praised Man of the Match Israel Folau's performance, and said of the fullback's 38th-minute try: "I'm not quite sure why it's taken us 10 weeks to work out we can actually kick the ball over to him, and he'll jump up and catch it and score ... that might be dumb coaching I don't know. Maybe the situation hasn't occurred, but it was smart from [Bernard Foley] because we had the advantage so we had a free shot at it and [Folau] put himself in exactly the right place. [Folau] did really well and had a very good game. He missed a tackle for the try unfortunately, but that was smart footy by Foley.
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis said on Saturday that the victory had instilled a greater sense of belief in the team ahead of their next match, with the Bulls in Pretoria. "It gives the boys confidence, a bit of momentum going over to Loftus," he said. "No one has won at Loftus before. It's a great challenge for us. It's a really good week for the boys, having that result and turning up Sunday to the airport will add a different feel to the group. There's a good feeling."
Cheika, meanwhile, confirmed winger Drew Mitchell had sustained a hamstring injury, and said that he would decide on Saturday about his availability for the two-match tour of South Africa. "We just have to see the extent of the injury but obviously for him to come off that early in the piece … we've got to get him assessed pretty quickly because we've got to make some decisions about South Africa."
The Waratahs showed great spirit to defeat the Chiefs (video available only in Australia)