Super Rugby harmony is a must for success

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika doesn’t have an ideal number of Super Rugby franchises in his head, but no matter how many Australian teams survive in 2018, the national coach says they all need to work together.

The Super Rugby format is under review, with any changes slated for the 2018 season and Cheika said five franchises would be sustainable, but there would need to be a unified mentality.

Having provinces on the same page has paid off for New Zealand, who has had a formally centralised program in place for a long time, with coaches contracted through the NZRU.

While full centralisation isn’t on the cards just yet for Australia, Cheika said alignment was the key.

“I am one of those that says five is fine as long as we're all  focused." - Michael Cheika

“Whatever number they choose is fine and we'll work with the coaches to get the levels up.”

“The best environment is players all playing with great skills and hungry for the next moment in the match,” he added.

“We can play a certain style of game and we've got to have that hunger to play more and more footy all the time.

“Playing with the ball more aggressively. If we build those habits from NRC to Super Rugby and into us.

“If we build and prepare that over time we'll start to play less halves of good footy and more full matches.”

The Wallabies battled against England in June, in their first home series whitewash, after less than a two-week training camp, with players joining from overseas and the Super Rugby competition.

It’s an experience Cheika has said this year he has learned from, and the next step is bringing the Super Rugby franchises together.

Cheika and the Wallabies coaching team will meet with the Super Rugby mentors on their return to Australia, in a bid to align the groups’ mentalities.

“We're not trying to take players away or do anything like that, we want some of the ideas we have to go into the Super Rugby environment and the coaches have all been really open to that." - Michael Cheika

“They are starting to believe together we are stronger instead of operating like six different teams.

“They are five different teams but we are not the sixth. We are the culmination of those five and even with some of the messages I've received from the provinces while I've been here I've been really heartened by.”

The Force has been vocal since revelations that the WA franchise could be the casualty of a revamped Super Rugby format and fullback Dane Haylett-Petty urged fans to get behind the team.

Haylett-Petty is one of two Force players to make his Test debut this season, with promising lock Adam Coleman the other, while Luke Morahan returned from Test exile and Jono Lance went a whisker from making his own debut in Paris.

A number of players have pledged their support for the franchise and Haylett-Petty said he would be among those buying an ownership stake, under a radical move announced by the Force last month.

“Yeah definitely, a couple of shares I think and hopefully everyone else gets behind them because it creates a pathway for so many talented Western Australians to try and make it to this next level,” he said.

“We've seen so many good young Wallabies come out of that system and I think there's going to be plenty more because there's so many talented boys there.

“Hopefully they make a decision (that) the Force is around for a long time to come." - Dane Haylett-Petty

“While we  haven't had the results on the field, I think the vision was always to grow Wallabies and they've definitely done that."