Once the figurehead of the Wallabies set-up, coach Michael Cheika now finds himself in the intriguing position of trying to overcome his countrymen in the Rugby Championship this season.
The Sydney man, who was coach of the Australian national team between 2014 and 2019, currently finds himself as a coaching consultant with an ever-improving Argentina side.
Once the loyal and combative coach of the Wallabies, defending their corner and praising their efforts at any possible opportunity, Cheika now finds himself trying to plot his former team’s downfall in the unforgiving Rugby Championship. The 53-year-old has taken up the chance to work under Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma ahead of their four consecutive Tests in the competition.
Cheika’s time with Australia came to a disappointing end after their exit at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. The Wallabies were beaten 40-16 by eventual runners-up England in the quarter-finals and Cheika decided that he would call time on his spell with the national side.
With South Africa pulling out of the Rugby Championship this season, Argentina have the unenviable opening challenge of taking on the mighty New Zealand at Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium on November 14. That’s before their first encounter the following Saturday at Broadmeadow against the Wallabies, who find themselves out at 14/1 in the rugby union betting to win the next World Cup in 2023.
Cheika has finally been allowed to meet up with the rest of the Pumas’ squad and now the work begins to get Argentina in a position where they can cause upsets against the likes of the All Blacks and Wallabies. Ledesma is certainly happy to have the 53-year-old on board, as he brings a wealth of experience to the Pumas’ coaching set up.
“The fact that Michael can now be at the training venue and in contact with the players is great,” Ledesma told Rugby Australia’s official website. “He is very enthusiastic about the team, he transmits lots of confidence and belief. He is very eager to join the group and players will be able to take advantage of him full time.”
The absence of the world champion South Africa has given Argentina extra time to work on the training paddock and develop the game plans they hope will bring down New Zealand and Australia.
On the outside, Cheika will presumably be all about business and is likely to let little on about any potential conflict of trying to overcome the Wallabies over the next couple of months. However, deep down there might well be a part of the coach that feels conflicted about his latest role with the Pumas, who have already shown during their time in the Rugby Championship that they are more than capable of causing upsets.
With the former Leinster and Stade Francais coach Cheika’s input under Ledesma, the improving Pumas will undoubtedly see their chances of causing serious upsets increase at this year’s thrilling tournament.