Wallabies expect to peak at Rugby World Cup, says coach

Australia’s Lukhan Salakaia-Loto tackles South Africa’s Warrick Gelant. (AFP pic)

JOHANNESBURG: Australia coach Michael Cheika refused to blame two disallowed tries in the first half for their 35-17 defeat at the hands of South Africa in their Rugby Championship match on Saturday, saying his team had several opportunities after that to win the game.

The Springboks shaded a tight first half 14-10, but were fortunate because the Wallabies had two tries disallowed – correctly – one for a forward pass from centre Tevita Kuridrani to flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and the other because wing Dane Haylett-Petty knocked the ball on over the tryline.

“We still had opportunities, even at the end. We created a lot of opportunities, but we also gave a couple of tries away that we should have scored,” said Cheika.

“In situations like that, you’ve got to react with calm, take your chips and try and cash out at the end. Apart from the two tries not given, a lot of small things went against us and meant we couldn’t turn the momentum our way.

“In the first half we dominated territory, but we’ve got to learn when we don’t have a lot of ball, like in the second half, we have got to be tighter because we were a bit loose.

“There were times we managed to pick apart their rush defence and we made enough breaks. We scored two tries after the two were disallowed. But the yellow card against (prop) Taniela Tupou was the wrong call, the other guy should have got it,” Cheika said.

The Wallabies coach said even though he was aware most people would be writing off their chances at the World Cup later this year after losing for the 10th time in 13 Tests, he believed the embattled side is making progress.

“A lot of people think we’re a long way back, but we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we peak at the World Cup. It’s difficult to use the word ‘happy’ after a Test loss, but I did see some progress.

“We have certain plans for attack and defence and the commitment is there to play that way. That will build as the season goes on and there are big things later in the year.

“Brisbane (against Argentina next Saturday) will provide a great opportunity to build on this performance, we just need to convert more of our opportunities. But even today, when the guys were under pressure, every player was getting in and trying to shut things down.

“We’ll keep doing that and it will build into something. Today was disappointing but it’s all part of the push to the World Cup,” Cheika said.