Michael Cheika has flatly rejected suggestions his NSW Waratahs had “reignited” their title hopes with a hoodoo-busting 13-10 Super Rugby win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Waratahs showed true grit in keeping the Brumbies scoreless in a sapping second half – even after having winger Rob Horne sin-binned for 10 minutes – to prevail in the national capital for the first time since 2011 – and only third time in 20 seasons.
The victory left the Waratahs in control of the Australian conference, one point behind the Brumbies but with a game in hand as they look to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs.
Significantly, after a sluggish start to their campaign, the Waratahs have also now chalked up seven wins from their 10 matches to be better placed in 2015 than they were at the same stage last season.
But Cheika said it would be foolish for the champions to expect to repeat their memorable march to last year’s title on the back of a club-record nine straight wins.
“If you let yourself think like that, you’ll get on a plane and go to Perth and you’ll get slammed,” the no-nonsense coach said ahead of Saturday night’s clash with the Western Force.
“So you’ve just got to appreciate the game for what it is and just get onto the next thing and try to take the good bits from it and improve on the other things.
“We’re not looking to ignite. I don’t think we’re looking to go on some crazy run like maybe happened last year – I think it was a bit different.
“I think this year we’ve almost got to earn it more.”
The only downer for the Waratahs, who climbed to sixth on the ladder with their third consecutive win, was Tatafu Polota-Nau being concussed for the second time this season.
The hooker has already missed two games and undergone extensive brain scans this campaign because of a head knock and after being KO’d too many times in his career to remember.
Cheika felt Polota-Nau had been unlucky on this occasion when he came off second best in a heavy collision in just the third minute with Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani.
But the coach admitted it was too early to know if he’d make the trip to Perth.
“He looks fine now, but I don’t know what the details are,” Cheika said.
The Waratahs have a ready-made fill-in, with Tolu Latu again one of his side’s best, powerful in the scrum and physical in the contact after coming on for Polota-Nau.