New Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has acknowledged his side needs to not only play winning rugby but win over fans with attacking flair after signing a three-year deal to reinvigorate the embattled Super Rugby club.
The former NSW forward was regarded as the favourite to step into the role following the departure of Michael Foley in July and Waratahs chairman Roger Davis confirmed the appointment on Tuesday.
Foley quit the Waratahs after a dismal season that finished with eight successive losses as they slumped to 11th on the ladder.
Cheika joins the embattled franchise after an eight-year coaching stint in Europe with Irish club Leinster and French side Stade Francais.
The 45-year-old former No.8 had a long playing career with Sydney club Randwick, who were synonymous with attacking creativity and produced Wallabies greats such as Mark Ella and David Campese.
He accepts that Waratahs fans rightly have high expectations when it comes to winning games in style and he duly plans to instill more creativity.
“My heritage comes from playing attacking rugby and that’s something that I want to do (at the Waratahs) and I don’t think you can win big games without scoring tries,” said Cheika.
“I come from an attacking background – sometimes to my own detriment – with a bit of the (former English soccer coach) Kevin Keegan era – `you score one and we’ll score two’.
“Maybe we won’t be like that but we’ll have a good balance.
“I think that’s where you get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from the game as a player and also as a supporter.”
But Cheika made note that his time at the Waratahs will also be judged on their ladder position and it would be negligent to become obsessed with being the entertainers of the competition without banking wins.
“We want to play a style of rugby that’s not just attacking – yes, that’s a big part of it – but also one that makes us proud of the way we play,” he said.
“That’s a really important part. I think it’s the balance between cutting edge – technology and science – with a bit of old-school, gut-feeling, good culture around, hard work, a bit of dog as well.”
Cheika was preferred for the role after a dozen candidates were interviewed.
After coaching Sydney club Randwick for five seasons, Cheika was recruited by Leinster in 2005 and boasted a good record with the Dublin-based team.
His stint was highlighted by winning a European Cup title in 2009 after the appointment of current Waratahs assistant Alan Gaffney as backs coach.
Cheika then joined Stade Francais but failed to steer the Parisian club to the finals of the Top 14 competition over the past two seasons.
Cheika’s appointment adds to a long list of changes at the Waratahs since the end of a poor 2012 Super Rugby campaign.
Over the last two months, NSW chairman Ed Zemancheff has stepped down, Foley took up a three-year deal with the Western Force and off-season signing Sarel Pretorius returned to South Africa after becoming the team’s third-choice halfback.
Former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom has moved on after an injury-plagued stint, veteran second-rower Dan Vickerman has retired and experienced duo Dean Mumm and Daniel Halangahu are playing in England and Italy respectively.