Wallabies coach Michael Cheika insists he’s nowhere near reaching any mountain tops, but the rugby fan in him is looking forward to his first crack at conquering the code’s equivalent of Everest.
Cheika will coach against the world champion All Blacks for the first time on Saturday in the Rugby Championship decider at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
Some sceptics might suggest climbing Everest would be an easier gig and certainly quicker than waiting for a Wallabies win over the All Blacks, something which last happened four years ago.
Failure to win on Saturday would mean Australia equals their longest ever winless streak of 11 matches against one nation, though that previous run against New Zealand spanned 11 years from 1967-78.
With the World Cup just over six weeks away, Cheika will get the best possible gauge of the Wallabies progress under his charge with matches against New Zealand on successive Saturday’s in Sydney and Auckland.
Cheika, who has a 3-3 record since taking over last October, is enthusiastic but realistic about the task of toppling the old trans-Tasman foe.
“I’ve only just started, I’m nowhere near reaching any type of mountain tops,” Cheika said.
“I’m just learning about how to go each week getting the team ready in these little blocks, coming up against a serious opponent every single week.
“Obviously by their number one ranking, there’s no-one more serious than New Zealand.
“I suppose the rugby fan in me is really looking forward to it and as the coach I’ll follow that, I’m looking forward to the contest.
“We’ve still got a bit of preparation to do to get ourselves exactly right and I know the lads will be right up for it on Saturday night.”
He suggested Australia would look to execute established parts of their game better while also trying the odd new trick.
“Of course you’ll try something different like you do for most oppositions but I don’t see that there’s any type of miracle play or anything like that you’ve got to pull out,” Cheika said.
“You’ve just got to be up for the battle and ready to get stuck in and do it for 80 minutes and more if required.”
Prop James Slipper felt Australia’s much scrutinised scrum could get parity against the All Blacks and was still developing under recently appointed set piece coach Mario Ledesma.
He was confident it would be where it needed to be by the time of the World Cup.
“It’s taken some time to adjust (to Ledesma), but I feel like we’re definitely improving and we’re moving in the right direction,” Slipper said.
“In terms of the All Blacks they scrum pretty similar to us and we’re looking forward to a good contest there. I think it will be pretty even.”