Michael Cheika wants his Wallabies to embrace expectation, not hide from it, as the national side prepare to play their first game on Australian soil under his command.
All eyes will be on Suncorp Stadium on Saturday for the first real glimpse at what Cheika’s pre-World Cup thinking is against South Africa in the opening Test of a shortened Rugby Championship.
Almost every spot in the team is up for grabs, with the Springboks clash looming as an ideal chance for this new-era Wallabies outfit to send a firm message about who they are and what they stand for.
Cheika has kept his cards close to his chest in the build-up to the international season, but says nobody in camp Wallaby will be afraid when the harsh glare of scrutiny turns their way.
“We’re not scared of that. We want people to be a part of it,” Cheika said.
“We’ve got to do our best, not be worried by ‘oh, we might lose this week because everyone’s watching’.
“If we don’t do our best, then we’ve got an issue.
“But we’ve got to prepare the best we possibly can, be ready to play as best we possibly can, so we can make the people that are watching us – all those eyeballs – be proud of what we do.”
Early ticket sales have been slow, but a bumper crowd is still expected in Brisbane to watch the Wallabies take their first step on the road to the World Cup.
Cheika is still keeping his players on tenterhooks over the make-up of Saturday’s team, continuing to shuffle through his remaining 31-man squad in search of the best possible combinations across the park.
He said firm decisions would only start to be made in the “next day or so”.
“I’m a newbie here but, in the nature of this level of footy, it’s a balance between keeping them eager for the spot but also comfortable in the fact that we believe in all the players,” he said.
“We’re not even looking for combinations as such towards the World Cup but just looking to bed in what we’re doing.
“We’ve got a clear identity in the team – everyone’s bought into that nicely.
“We’re just going to keep working hard, enjoy what we’re doing and get satisfied from working hard for each other.”