Cheika criticism 'harsh': Erasmus

The Rugby Championship
by RUGBY.com.au staff

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus says criticism of Wallabies' Michael Cheika is 'harsh' after another Bledisloe loss.

Cheika has been under immense pressure in recent weeks after Australia's 16th-straight Bledisloe Cup series loss and the fourth consecutive year of defeats under Cheika.

Erasmus was full of praise for his counterpart when asked on Thursday.

"I remember when Michael took over, he was coach of the year and (England coach) Eddie Jones won 24 matches in a row, now he's lost a few (and he's under pressure)," he said.

"That's the nature of the game, but Michael's got a very level head on him, he's a sharp coach, his heart is in the right place and he really wants to get Australian rugby right.

"To judge a team (on their performances against) the All Blacks is harsh, and against Ireland all those Test matches could've gone any way."

Erasmus made a host of changes to his side to face the Wallabies, announced earlier on Thursday, bringing in enigmatic playmaker Elton Jantjies for the first time in this Rugby Championship and dropping Lions hooker Malcolm Marx to the bench.

Malcolm Marx in action for the Lions. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Springboks mentor had said he would be less likely to make wholesale changes to his team but there were still a host of big shifts when he announced his team.

While some of those moves seemed surprising, Erasmus played down any notion that they were radical moves.

"There's very few of these guys, including Malcolm, that got a surprise they weren't in the team," he said.

"We've only had six Tests together, we've got 12 to go before the World Cup and if we want to build a squad and be competitive there, guys will have to adapt."

Both the Springboks and Wallabies face a must-win situation this weekend after disappointing results in their last starts.

Erasmus and Cheika come into the Test with 50 per cent winning records and a win would certainly alleviate some pressure on the victor.

The sides could not be split in two outings last year, with a 23-all draw in Perth and a 27-all draw in Bloemfontein.

The Wallabies take on the Springboks on Saturday September 8, kicking off at 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Channel Ten, Macquarie Radio and RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.