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Repair man needs time to work magic with Waratahs

Waratahs mission ... Michael Cheika in the gym yesterday.

Waratahs mission ... Michael Cheika in the gym yesterday. Photo: James Brickwood

SPEND a little time talking to Michael Cheika, take a look at his eight years in Europe - at the successes, the failures and the legacies he left - and an outline begins to form of what the Waratahs might look like in three years.

It is the Waratahs in 2015. There is no new trophy in the cabinet. Not yet. It is not that the man himself thinks it impossible. A glance at the talent in the squad says it can't be far away.

But the facts say it took four years for Cheika to bring home the Heineken Cup with Irish province Leinster in 2009, their first of three European club championship titles.

During those four years there were highs and lows. A Heineken Cup semi-final in the first season, a quarter-final knockout in the second, no finals at all in the third and the breakthrough victory in the fourth. Celtic League wins kept fans hopeful throughout but the big one took long, hard graft.

''We learnt on the run, we learnt through adversity, we took some beatings,'' Cheika says of that time.

''It was the losses that changed us more than the wins, the big important losses. That's what makes the difference, because when things are going good, it's pretty easy to run down the hill but, when you've got to run up the hill, that's when you need to put in.''

Many observers see parallels between Leinster and NSW. Both are ''big city teams'' with big budgets, big players and big expectations. Cheika doesn't mind a bit of pressure - you sense he lives for the thrill of performing in spite of it - but he does not buy into the perception of Sydney and NSW supporters as the toughest, browbeaten and most cynical market in the country.

''Maybe I'm naive but I don't think [it is that way],'' he says. ''People say the crowd might be cynical but I don't see it as a bad thing … if they're worried about it that much that is a good thing, because that means they really want us to do well.''

How does a supporter base worn down by underperformance muster enough faith to see through another coach's multi-year plan?

''Maybe they weren't putting in enough last year, I don't know, but it's about leaving no stone unturned to make sure that you represent the people that support you and yourselves to the best of your ability,'' Cheika says.

The former Randwick No.8 says the next three years will feature change and blood, sweat and tears. That's what happened at Leinster. ''[There was] changing personnel in the office, in the playing squad, according to what was required,'' Cheika says. ''Changing the culture, changing values, changing the way we administered. And I'm not claiming that I knew that was actually the case at the time. I was just doing them and they happened to be all falling into place, in as far as they were the right things to do.''

The change has already started at Moore Park. Defence coach Dean Mumm has moved on and there will be further changes among Cheika's personnel. The playing roster he inherited will be worked and tested to within an inch of its life. The coming pre-season promises thrills and spills as players get to know the coach and vice versa. Forget what you saw this season, the only claim on selection is performance.

''He who performs will play,'' Cheika says. ''There are some times where you have to play guys into form and there are some times when you have to react to a performance, where a guy needs to have competition put against him to lift him. It's the coach's skill to be able to pick when the right time is to stick with a guy and play him through or change him around for someone else who's knocking on the door.''

That applies to the halves combination, a vexed issue for the Waratahs following the departures of Kurtley Beale and Luke Burgess. Cheika believes being competitive internally is the key to being competitive externally. There are three players competing for both positions.

The No.7 jersey is another interesting issue. Pat McCutcheon had a season cruelled by injury this year but has the temperament - equal parts class and ''dog'' - Cheika wants to build a team around. Then there's Michael Hooper, the star signing, a hard-running fetcher around whom swirls the trademark buzz of a ''next big thing''. New recruits and a new coach. The only way to figure out the shape of the next three years is to dive into them.

''The first points of success for me will be to have everyone respecting each other fully, right throughout the organisation, understanding what our identity is, what we're playing for, and living that lifestyle,'' Cheika says.

Next comes buying into a new style of play and playing that way consistently. There is no mention of a Super Rugby title.

''If you're looking for me to say something like 'I want to win the competition', the reality is that everyone wants that,'' he says.

''But I've got too much experience to know that just saying you're going to win or want to win is not enough. [It] is the end result of getting all the stuff you do to prepare - whether it be physical, mental or rugby-wise - right. Only then can you earn the right to get a bit of luck or help to win in the very last game.''

It goes back to the Leinster experiment. Copping a beating, getting up, changing and charging forward. It is the Waratahs in 2015. There is no new trophy in the cabinet. Not yet.

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
BUL vs RED 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 6 6 0 0 85 27
Brumbies 6 4 2 0 73 20
Stormers 5 4 1 0 33 16
Chiefs 6 4 2 0 36 19
Sharks 6 3 3 0 5 15
Waratahs 5 3 2 0 24 14
Highlanders 5 3 2 0 4 15
Bulls 5 3 2 0 12 14
View all
 
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