AUCKLAND – Following his sides’ 40-12 loss to hosts New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday, Australia coach Michael Cheika says he is not concerned about his future in the position.
The Wallabies' defeat at Eden Park was their fourth straight loss, and they have now won just one of their last seven matches.
Australian media reports have subsequently speculated that the Australian coach is under pressure to keep his job, despite being contracted until the end of 2019.
Cheika was, as a result, asked at the post-match press conference if he was worried about the pressure but the Wallabies coach reacted strongly, saying his only focus was dragging the team back to the winners circle on Saturday week, when they'll face the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.
“The last person I’m thinking about is me,” Cheika said. “I want Australia to play good rugby, and be the best it can be. So if you think that I’m worried about myself then you’ve never known me. Some people might do rugby coaching for a job, I’m doing it because of passion.
“I want Australia to win more than anything. And I’ll do my very best, for every day that I’m honoured enough to have the position.”
Cheika angrily rejected a further question about whether he was debating within himself when the right time would be to walk away as Wallabies coach.
“You wouldn’t know, you’ve never coached, you wouldn’t know if there’s a debate in my mind,” he said. “I don’t know where you come off saying that. I told you exactly what I think about it, categorically.
“So if you think there’s a debate going on in your own mind you need to go and get some pills to sort it out, because there ain’t no debate going on in my mind.”
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen came to his counterpart's defence when asked about the rising pressure valve.
“I think that's part of what happens in sport, isn't it?” he said. “You guys and ladies are relentless. You need to sell papers and that's a great headline.
“The key thing is that he doesn't lose his own convictions and the teams don't lose sight of what they're trying to do. Listening to them talk it sounds like they have plenty of belief in who they are and what they are trying to do.
“As a coach you can't control what happens. If someone doesn't like what you're doing and the results don't match up that's high performance sport.
“You get the chop and you keep your dignity in doing that. But at the same time I think we could be a little mischievous in the media and the fans, too.”
Hansen also raised the notion that Cheika should not be judged entirely on how his side performs against a “special” All Blacks outfit.
“Because they lose to us it doesn't make them a poor team,” he said. “We've seen two Test matches where we have hurt them on turnover ball and tonight we managed to hurt them from set piece play as well.
“It's a pretty special team down there in that change room and when time comes in a few years - five, 10, 20 years - we will look back and think that's a special group. I don't think a coach should be under pressure for losing to us.”
On field, Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper admitted his side were “not up to scratch” on turnover ball, which sparked five of the All Blacks' six tries.
“We’re not up to scratch there, we’re not on the same page, we’re not reacting fast enough,” he said. “If you broke it down and slowed it we probably would be fine.
“New Zealand move the ball very quickly and by that time it’s all happening very fast and we’re not quick enough to get into that position and be one unit.
“They made us pay again.”
African News Agency (ANA)