Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says it’s “obvious” he’s not liked or respected in New Zealand as the fallout continues from his unsolicited entry to the referee’s room during a Super Rugby match last month.
Cheika was on Thursday formally warned for approaching referee Jaco Peyper during his NSW Waratahs’ 23-11 victory over the Blues at Allianz Stadium.
While Cheika is keen to move on after being slapped on the wrists, many across the Tasman have questioned why SANZAR didn’t come down harder on him given he is still serving a six-month suspended ban for abusing a cameraman in South Africa last year.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has expressed dismay at Cheika’s conduct and at the leniency shown by Super Rugby’s governing body, who deemed Cheika had broken a law of the game – but not breached the code of conduct – by approaching Peyper seeking clarification of a scrum ruling.
Had he breached the code of conduct, Cheika would have triggered the ban and not been able to coach the Wallabies in an all-important World Cup year.
Asked after the Waratahs’ 32-18 pummelling at the hands of the Stormers on Saturday night if he felt like the victim of a smear campaign in New Zealand, Cheika said: “Obviously I’m not liked over there or not respected”.
“But it won’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.”
Despite being accused of knowingly cheating by entering the referee’s room mid-game, Cheika said he’d made a conscious effort since being placed on his suspended ban – 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.
Being grilled about his personal predicament only added to Cheika’s woes after the Waratahs slipped to 10th place on the table in their title defence following their hammering at the hands of the Stormers.
“I’m here to talk about the game. It’s not even an issue for me. It’s an issue for someone else,” he said.
“The last thing I’m thinking about is that. We’ve just been pumped at home, I’m not that selfish to think like that.
“You need to ask someone else about that stuff because someone else is driving it.”