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Waratahs set piece woes my fault, says Cheika

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Waratahs triumph in Cape Town

The Waratahs had a 22-11 win over the Stormers in Cape Town.

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CAPE TOWN: Michael Cheika blamed himself for the Waratahs' recent set piece woes and credited a bit of extra attention with his side's 22-11 win over the Stormers.

Cheika said he had been focused too much on the team's attack and expected the set piece - a traditional area of strength for NSW - to take care of itself.

The crunch came last week in Durban, when the Sharks mauled their visitors at scrum to set the platform for their 32-10 victory.

Waratahs winger Peter Betham is in doubt for the round nine clash against the Western Force.

Waratahs winger Peter Betham is in doubt for the round nine clash against the Western Force. Photo: Getty Images

"I think I have to take a bit of the blame for the reason why the team isn't performing at scrum and line out," Cheika said.

"I probably wasn't very good at either of them as a player and I probably don't pay as much attention to them as I should. I like attacking football and defence and that type of stuff.

"It's a downfall in my set up, but I tried to pay a little more attention to it this week, along with [captain Dave Dennis] around line out and we knew it would be important. The players responded accordingly."

The Waratahs set the tone early at scrum and line out but threw away a number of attacking opportunities - through subsequent knock-ons or poor kicking - in the first 20 minutes.

Things settled as the game wore on, NSW exhibiting patience in attack to build pressure on their weary hosts.

Dennis said the team was aware they needed to perform early at set piece.

"The way the scrum is being reffed at the moment, the team with the early ascendancy tends to get the call in the end," he said.

"I thought the front row was fantastic tonight, we worked really hard and in the end I think we got two or three penalties which we kicked [penalty goals] off scrum, which went a big way to winning the match."

Cheika was visibly proud of the result - a rare win for travelling New Zealand and Australian teams in South Africa - but downplayed its significance against a depleted and low-on-morale side.

"In a season where it seems the ledger of home and away wins is going to be quite important, any away win you get is going to be quite valuable," he said.

"To be fair to the Stormers I think we got them at just the right time, they've come back from a long tour, they're missing several key players and we were a week into our three weeks so we were all feeling sharp.

"So I think we have to be realistic around that too, but we took advantage of the situation, put them under a bit of pressure and were able to come away with something."

The price of victory will be known in coming days, with four players in doubt for the side's derby clash with the Force.

Most serious of the injuries appeared to be a leg, possibly ankle, injury to winger Peter Betham.

Winger Alofa Alofa received a knee contusion but could be available next week.

Matt Carraro was taken off with a deep cut to the side of his head, which will be monitored.

And prop Sekope Kepu had an ankle worry but it was not clear on Saturday night how serious the injury was.

The Waratahs will welcome back Israel Folau and Wycliff Palu from injury, as well as Rob Horne, who served a one-week suspension.  

3 comments so far

  • A coach who can not only understand, but also openly admit his own faults. Izzy, Kurtley or Hooper won't be what wins us the title this year, it's Cheika!

    Date and time
    April 06, 2014, 12:27PM
    • Agree Phil. How refreshing!

      Date and time
      April 06, 2014, 6:10PM
      • Good on Cheika for owning up to his mistakes, but it really is about time we heard some humility from that man. Listening to his venom, I would have thought the dodgy Waratahs scrum was the fault of the referees, opposition teams, or possibly even SANZAR! And now it turns out they haven't been practicing scrums out of the arrogant notion that their set piece is perfect! The 'Tahs scrum was found out weeks ago by the Brumbies, but Cheika couldn't face reality, insisted the ref (and the world) had got it all wrong, and sleepwalked into the disaster at the Shark Tank. How many scrums did the 'Tahs win that night?

        Canberra, ACT
        Date and time
        April 06, 2014, 10:50PM

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