WALLABIES coach Michael Cheika is confident Australia’s Super Rugby sides will perform better this season after completing an inspection tour of the five franchises.
Cheika’s appraisal came as he also backed the Brisbane Tens this weekend, saying the tournament would not only boost players’ fitness but it would train a much-needed spotlight on the start of Super Rugby two weeks later.
“It’s something different but it makes a bit of noise about Super Rugby, because Super Rugby is a great tournament and for mine, not enough people watch it,” Cheika said.
After spending time with the Rebels, Force, Reds and Waratahs, the Wallabies coach today finished up by meeting the Brumbies squad as they prepared in Brisbane.
Cheika said he’d got “a good boost” after the tour, where he was pleased to see a higher level of pre-season fitness among the teams and predicted better results as a collective in 2017.
Improved standing in Super Rugby by Aussie teams is certainly needed. Four of Australia’s teams finished in the bottom half of the 2016 competition, and the Brumbies won the Australian conference despite finishing with less points than four New Zealand teams.
“I have been really pleased with the attitude I have seen,” Cheika said.
“We have had a lot of good energy back from the state teams and that’s been really positive.
“I feel like (I have had) a good boost and teams have been training harder. We spoke about fitness last year … I looked at the Force-Rebels trial the other night and for the first hit out … both looked pretty sharp. Perth in particularly looked fit and that’s always a really good start too having a good season. If you are in that space.
“I am not going to start waxing lyrical but we have been working on things since I came in 2014 around continuity and collaboration and getting things happening with one plan, and slowly but surely that’s starting to come together.
“I think we are going to see improved performances from our Super Rugby teams across the board this season.”
Cheika said work to align the Wallabies and Super Rugby team’s interests were now well advanced. Australia’s teams are now all using the same analysis systems, medical information and strength and conditioning benchmarks.
There has also been discussions between Cheika and Super Rugby coaches about workloads of key Test players.
“Overall picture in Australian rugby that we need to start striving for a bit more, about stepping up and making a difference when we play,” Cheika said.
“To do that we need to be a bit more unified in and around some of our planning for guys, and that’s definitely something that’s been happening at a few coaches meetings we have had together.”
Though many Wallabies stars are not playing, Cheika is excited by the Brisbane Tens and said it was both a good fitness device and a fun concept that would engage fans ahead of the Super Rugby season.
“It will be tough and hard so chaps are only going to benefit from getting fit,” Cheika said.
“I see it as a positive and it has a bit of a buzz around rugby for the week before Super Rugby starts, and that’s what we need. We need to have more people thinking about Super Rugby teams, so they know it is starting next weekend.
This is a really good way to do it