There is no doubt that Michael Cheika’s influence rubbed off on the Pumas as they shocked the world by beating the All Blacks for the first time in their 35-year history last weekend.
But it’s suffice to say that the Rennie didn’t credit the former Wallabies coach for masterminding the stunning victory.
Asked what influence he saw from the former Wallabies coach in the victory, Rennie wasn’t so naïve not to think he didn’t play a role, but he pointed to one key aspect of the game that the Pumas dominated the All Blacks, which wasn’t a characteristic of Cheika-coached teams of the past: kicking.
“I’m not certain what his role is,” Rennie prefaced his response to the New Zealand journalist.
“I know he’s come in as some form of specialist.
“Certainly, there was a really impressive defensive effort so if he’s had anything to do with that he’s done a good job.”
It was then that Rennie pricked the ears of the journalists on the zoom press conference.
“They kicked the leather off the ball - I would assume he didn’t have a lot of influence with that,” he said, much to the amusement of reporters.
😳 The half time speech tho..— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) November 17, 2020
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For the record, Pumas captain Pablo Matera said in his post-match press conference last Saturday that Cheika had given his side belief that they had all the tools needed to go out and achieve greatness.
While Cheika’s Wallabies bombed out in the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup, the Australian did record a win in his first outing against the All Blacks.
In his penultimate match coaching against the All Blacks he also led the Wallabies to a record win over their trans-Tasman neighbours.
But the tactical decision to run the ball at all costs and not play for territory came back to bite the Wallabies, particularly in quarter-final where Eddie Jones’ England pounced on their opponent’s mistakes.
Earlier in the press conference, Rennie highlighted that the Pumas outkicked the All Blacks during their 25-15 victory.
“I think the Pumas are happy to play without the ball,” he said, when asked what the major differences were between their opponents this week and the All Blacks.
“Really dominated the kicking stats last week, which was surprising - 28-16 - so the All Blacks held on to a lot of ball and made errors and got punished.
“We expect them to kick a lot to us and then try and get a wall in front of us, so we’ve got a plan around that. Our kicking game needs to be sharp. Our ability to generate quick ball will be really important. And then discipline is going to be massive. They’re happy to go in threes and if we make errors around discipline, they can kick from a long way out or get their lineout going and their drive game, which was pretty effective last week.”
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) November 16, 2020
Rennie reiterated the importance of playing a varied game shortly after by stating that the Wallabies needed to heed the lessons from the All Blacks’ failure and not try to play exclusively through them.
“Certainly we’ve got to play what’s in front of us. They did a good job filling the field last week and when teams fill the field you’ve got to be prepared to go through the middle of them and squeeze them up and then play outside them,” Rennie said.
“I think the All Blacks tried to go through them all day, but they would look back at the footage I’d imagine and realise that they left a few points out there if they’d been able to mix the game up better.
“That’s our challenge.
“They defended really well.
“They’ve got big men, they were very good at slowing the ball down and then getting a wall in front of the All Blacks – our challenge is to generate quicker ball than that to create space on the outside.”
The Wallabies take on the Pumas on Saturday night in Newcastle.
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