Master coach Jake White taunted the Sydney Waratahs in the lead-up to their clash with his ACT Brumbies.
He said the Waratah’s vaunted, new-look running style was nothing but media hype.
The long-suffering Waratahs have a new coach, Michael Cheika, who played for the famous Randwick club in Sydney, before heading overseas for a successful coaching career.
The tough Cheika promised success based on hard work and the running game.
Randwick, known as the Galloping Greens, epitomised running rugby when Cheika played, featuring international stars like the Ella brothers and David Campese—one of the greatest wingers ever to play rugby.
The Waratahs, the glamour Australian side, have been in the doldrums for years. Their loyal, long-suffering fans booed them from the field several times last year.
But fans quickly backed Cheika, who played over 300 games for Randwick, winning seven Sydney competitions. He captained the side from 1997 to 1999.
After coaching overseas, he returned to Sydney in 2001, to be with his ill father. In 2004, he coached Randwick to competition success.
In 2009, he coached Leinster to victory in the Heineken Cup, becoming club champions of Europe.
White’s criticism of Cheika leading into Saturday night’s (March 9) clash was pointed.
“I don’t see any significant change,” White said.
The Waratahs remained the same “conservative,” forward-dominated side that has failed in Super Rugby for years.
Cheika’s response was snide.
“Well he knows, he’s a world cup-winning coach, he must know,” Cheika said.
Cheika’s facetious comment proved prophetic. When the sides met in Canberra, the Brumbies spanked the Waratahs 35-6.
Suddenly Cheika sounded like a growing list of former unsuccessful Waratah coaches.
“Anyone who is looking for a short-term fix is in the wrong game,” he said after the loss.
Like the long-suffering fans, he said he felt sick watching his side capitulate to White’s Brumbies, who are led by Waratah reject Ben Mowen.
South African White had a second slap in the face for Australian rugby. He has signed star flanker George Smith, who left the Brumbies to play club rugby in Japan in 2010, after he was controversially dropped from the Australian side by Wallaby coach Robbie Deans.
In the lead-up to Smith’s first game on Saturday, Deans said Smith had no chance of making the Wallabies – who play the British and Irish Lions in June.
Deans was emphatic, saying Smith, 32, was “not a possibility,” adding he would rather “chase realities.”
The comments were unnecessarily dismissive, considering that the great George Smith has played 110 Tests for the Wallabies. And they quickly came back to bite the unpopular Deans.
Wallabies captain David Pocock was seriously injured 12 minutes into the match and was replaced by fellow flanker Smith.
“George Smith is phenomenal,” the normally understated White said after the match, before giving himself a pat on the back, saying it “was a stroke of genius” to bring Smith back from Japan.
Despite losing the national captain, White said Smith proved to be a key to the victory: “What a talent he is.”
White took charge of the bumbling Brumbies in 2011. He set about turning a team of nobodies into a hard-working, no-nonsense unit.
His success attracted players like Pocock, whose injury, a ruptured knee ligament, will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
The Brumbies currently lead the Super 15, five competition points ahead of the second-placed Bulls, who beat the Blues in Auckland for the first time on Sunday 28-21.
Crusaders vs Hurricanes
In Wellington on Saturday, the powerful Crusaders dominated the Hurricanes. With six minutes left in the game, the Crusaders broke free with a line of unmarked players.
Television commentator Justin Marshall, who was an outstanding All Black and played 105 games for the Crusaders, shouted: “It’s all over.”
Then, appearing out of nowhere, Hurricanes winger Alapati Leiua pounced on an intercept pass and coasted away to score the match-winning try.
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