The Wallabies insist they’ll reap the benefits of their dismal rugby season for years to come, with the tough times set to harden a new generation of stars.
The Wallabies entered 2016 with high hopes following a glowing display at the World Cup under Cheika, where they produced a stunning run to the final only to be outclassed by the untouchable All Blacks.
But things haven’t quite gone to plan, with a three-nil sweep on home soil by England punctuating an underwhelming Rugby Championship and another year of Bledisloe Cup disappointment.
With seven Tests remaining – including a super-sized, five-Test tour of Europe starting in November – the Wallabies can salvage something from 2016. But even if they don’t, coach Michael Cheika can already see the positives.
In addition to blooding 10 new players into the Wallabies set up, with potentially more to come this weekend against Argentina at Twickenham, Cheika says the wounds which have been opened up by the All Blacks and England will work for Australia in the long run.
“It will be the making of us in the end. Tough times breed better times later on,” Cheika said.
“Yeah we went through a tough patch early on in the year, but we’ll get plenty from that later on.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m a cliche guy but that’s definitely what happens … in my experience in this game.
“You go through great times and then you can go through tougher times, and that will always lead to giving you the scars on the inside to have better times later on.”
Their most recent loss – an 18-10 effort against the Springboks in a dour contest that Australia dominated but couldn’t close out – is a prime example of that, according to Cheika.
“I think our play is improving too,” he said.
“Even though we got beaten in the game on Saturday, I thought it was our best game so far this season.
“We just didn’t capitalise on our opportunities we created down in the opposition territory.
“I feel like we are improving and our newer players are getting used to the habits that are required when you play in this team.”
Key playmaker Quade Cooper agreed, pointing to his tough entry into Super Rugby with the Reds which blossomed into a title in 2011 as proof that hard times breed hard people.
But still, Saturday’s loss cut deep for the 28-year-old.
“Like Cheik said, it’s one of the best games we’ve played all year,” Cooper said.
“We created so many opportunities, players were in a lot of space but we just didn’t finish it off. That’s what hurts so much.”