SANZAR says it won’t reopen the case of Michael Cheika’s halftime referee rendezvous but it will be an unavoidable topic when the Waratahs head across the Tasman this week.
Cheika’s defending Super Rugby champions face the undefeated Hurricanes on Saturday in Wellington, where Cheika is likely to face questions from fired-up Kiwi media over his knowledge of the game’s laws.
It comes after he copped a formal warning from governing body SANZAR who investigated a complaint after he approached referee Jaco Peyper at halftime in his team’s win over the Blues two weeks ago asking about a scrum interpretation.
The finding that Cheika had not breached the code of conduct – and therefore did not trigger a six-month suspension already hanging over him – did not go down well in New Zealand.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said he was shocked by the SANZAR finding and it had “opened up a can of worms”.
One reporter claimed his action amounted to cheating while another called for the matter to be reopened, unsatisfied with NSW Waratahs CEO Greg Harris’ assertion that Cheika didn’t know the game’s laws don’t allow coaches to approach refs during a game.
Cheika was sanctioned while coaching in Europe for making contact with a referee during match in 2011.
Evidence provided by Peyper and the other officials in the room said Cheika was not abusive or intimidating and therefore he could not be charged under Super Rugby governing body’s code of conduct.
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters could not be contacted for comment on Sunday but a spokesman said SANZAR considered the matter closed.
Asked if he felt like the victim of a smear campaign in New Zealand, Cheika said it was clear he wasn’t a popular figure across the ditch.
“Obviously I’m not liked over there or not respected,” he said, speaking after the Waratahs lost 32-18 to the Stormers on Saturday night.
“But it doesn’t change my opinion of them.
“I respect them for their football, they’ve got good football players, good coaches, and they’ve got a long list of them.
“That’s the way I’ll always think. I don’t change with the wind.”
Cheika said he’d made a conscious effort since being placed on his suspended ban for abusing a sideline cameraman in South Africa – which expires on August 31 – to behave carefully.
“I’ve taken particular care since that day back in South Africa and I wasn’t careless the other day either,” he said.