WATCH: Cheika reveals why he made it "personal" in fiery half-time spray

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika made things personal for his charges at half-time in Salta but he says it’s now up to the players to continue their emotional response beyond this weekend.

Cheika launched a vigorous half-time spray that was caught by broadcaster cameras, and showed him remonstrating with his players in the change rooms.

The broadcast vision was only a snippet of the passionate address, however, and the full clip (as seen above) shows Cheika exhorting his troops to fight before walking out of the room.

Though he wasn’t willing to go into what he said at the break, Cheika revealed he was simply attempting to get his players to think about how much they wanted it.

"It’s not really for public airing but this game is personal,” he said.

“Everything's got to have personal meaning and we needed to get some personal meaning for our game because in the first half it wasn't there and once the lads got some meaning about what they wanted to do and some purpose, they played a heap better, a heap better.

"I just wanted to say what I felt, that's all. 

"I didn't go down there with a plan of doing that or anything like that. I just wanted to say what I felt, because the game is personal.

"I wanted to just let them know how I felt."

Footage of Cheika’s half-time spray lit up discussion after it was broadcast, with the coach in the past having had a reputation as a fiery dressing room orator.

Cheika grabbed Bernard Foley's shirt but the fly-half said afterwards he was not a personal target, but rather the nearest player as Cheika spoke about the value of the Wallabies jersey.

“Nah, he was just talking about the jersey,” Foley said.

“I’ve had him for a while so I’ve been on the end of a few but he’s definitely a passionate guy, that’s how he coaches, he coaches with his heart on his sleeve and the guys responded."

Whatever Cheika said clearly worked as his side piled on five second-half tries to mount the Wallabies’ biggest-ever comeback, and the biggest comeback in tier 1 Test history as well.

Whether the lessons about "meaning" will stick when they take on the All Blacks in Japan in the final 2018 Bledisloe Cup series in three weeks time remains to be seen..

That, Cheika said, was each player’s personal responsibility.

“The clever guys, the smart guys will learn from that and take that on board so that it makes them better rugby players and better representatives of Australia when they go out on the field,” he said.

“I think that's extremely important.

“We can't guarantee anything - you stay grounded after a half of footy which, there was a lot of really great passages, some great rugby played and also the defence, it was like it wasn't the same team defending.

“We’ve just got to count on taking that lesson to the next game because the only thing that counts is the next game in Japan against New Zealand and we've got to start to get ourselves mentally ready for that game and physically ready and then technically ready as well is the last piece.”

Skipper Michael Hooper echoed Cheika’s sentiment.

“As Cheik said, there's no guarantee,” he said.

“You've just got to hope that you make sure the guys learn from this moment, that's all we can do.”

Sitting in the press conference after the match, Hooper admitted there was almost an element of confusion among the group, as there would have been over bowls of Weet Bix back in Australia.

“(I’m) proud of the boys to be able to show the resilience of where we've been at as a team and where we're at sitting there at half-time and making that choice and taking the messages from the coaching staff and delivering and coming out there and meaning something,” he said.

“It's just frustrating that - where is it minute one, minute 10?”

If Hooper was a bit confused, Mario Ledesma expected the Australians' response but not his team's comparative capitulation.

"The second half, I expected the Australian team to react," he said.

"I expected Cheika to give his team a rev-up in the changing room, which he obviously did.

"I don't think they did anything different in the second half. We didn't defend, during 10-15 minutes they scored four tries with almost no opposition.

"We stopped coming up and making tackles and we started making mistakes.

"It was almost like we did it on purpose or something.

"Obviously there's a mental component about the whole second half but when you're 31-7 you should be a little bit more confident about those second halves."

The Wallabies return to Australia on Monday evening, before re-grouping the week after ahead of that final Bledisloe Test.