NSW Waratahs captain Dave Dennis doesn’t expect sanctioned coach Michael Cheika to retreat into his shell, despite his latest brush with rugby officialdom.
Dennis’ comments come after SANZAR was labelled a “laughing stock” in New Zealand for not coming down harder on the Waratahs and Wallabies coach for approaching referee Jaco Peyper over a scrum rule during the Super Rugby champions’ last-start win over the Blues.
The governing body has issued Cheika a formal warning, but says “there is no evidence that the referee was influenced by the exchange in his handling of the match, nor in the circumstances has there been a breach of the SANZAR code of conduct”.
However, had SANZAR deemed his actions a breach – instead of a rule breach – it would have triggered a suspended six-month ban, after Cheika verbally abused a cameraman last year during a Waratahs loss to the Sharks in Durban.
New Zealand Herald columnist Gregor Paul said: “The prevailing view in New Zealand is that using the break to enter the referee’s room – regardless of intent or content – is a serious offence and should automatically be considered a breach.
“SANZAR’S credibility was privately mocked by several leading Super Rugby figures yesterday, who feel the tournament organiser has made itself a laughing stock in the way it has handled the Michael Cheika affair.”
Cheika did not address the media as scheduled on the eve of the Waratahs’ hosting of the Stormers, but Dennis said on Friday he didn’t think the coach would retreat into his shell.
“He’s fine,” Dennis said. “There’s been no real mention of it during the week to the team and it’s been dealt with by SANZAR.
“So I can’t imagine him hiding away from it.”
Despite the let-off, Cheika is walking a fine line in a World Cup year, with his suspended ban not due to expire until August 31.
Dennis, though, said no one at the Waratahs really feared having their coach suspended.
“That’s a pretty extreme result if that was to happen,” he said.
Dennis understood Cheika’s query to Peyper to be about why the Blues received a short-arm penalty while defending a series of scrums on their line before halftime at Allianz Stadium.
The coach learnt the Tahs were penalised under the “use it or lose it” law, but they were miffed because they believed their scrum was still going forward.
“In hindsight, I think Peyper was right in terms of his interpretation,” Dennis said. “It was just a question from Cheika, I think.”
Peyper was booed off the field at the break before the Waratahs won the second-half penalties 9-1.
“I think Cheik was just being passionate about what the law is because we were all bamboozled with what the interpretation was at the time,” said Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who did not play that night.
The Waratahs say they have put the issue behind them and are ready to “play on” as usual against the Stormers.