In line for a recall: Berrick Barnes. Photo: Anthony Johnson Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has indicated he will make several changes to his side to play the Cheetahs from South Africa on Friday night after being thrashed by the Brumbies last Saturday, sticking by his mantra that players should be picked on performance.
A hamstring injury is most likely to rule out Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau for the round-five game at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
However, Cheika also said that Wallabies utility back Berrick Barnes was looking good to make a return to the side after undergoing rehabilitation on a knee injury.
But Cheika did not hide his belief that before focusing on Friday’s game, the Waratahs who lost 35-6 to the Brumbies in Canberra needed to account individually for their impact – or lack of – in the game where NSW was beaten in almost every domain.
Cheika started by rescheduling a planned training run from Monday afternoon to Tuesday (that was to have been a rest day) to allow more time for players to absorb the points of the roasting he gave them after the game on Saturday before meeting on Monday for a more analytical assessment.
”You can’t brush aside losing like that. With those things happening you have to pay attention, get accountable for what each individual did wrong and then you can get on to the next game,” Cheika said.
”[But] me going down there to beat everyone with a big stick is not going to serve anything.
I’ve already done that. I spoke harshly to the team after the game. It was merited … The last 10 or 15 minutes we didn’t do the basic things that you don’t need any talent to do – [such as to] go out and chase kicks, get up off the ground. You don’t need talent to do that stuff. That was probably for me, out of the whole 80 minutes, the most disappointing.”
Are team changes likely?
”Maybe … yeah,” Cheika said. When asked if performance would determine who was picked he added: ”We have shown performance is important. We’ll try and select wherever possible around performance … especially in this first season so everyone knows where the standards are at.”
With Polota-Nau out, one selection issue will be who replaces him in the starting side – Luke Holmes who came on for Polota-Nau or John Ulugia.
Cheika said training this week would answer that, although he said that while Holmes was good in the scrum, he was short on pace.
While the Waratahs appeared to lose direction when Polota-Nau left the field, especially in the line-out, Cheika defended Holmes, saying: ”Luke has a game under his belt now. [But] some of the roles he needs to fill – and the pace he needs to fill them at – is where he needs to step up the mark.”
Cheika was still scathing of the NSW forwards lack of physicality in the lineout against the Brumbies, saying the Waratahs: ”Let them stand in the middle of our lineout, just let them stand there.
”If someone intimidates you, you have to intimidate them back. And we didn’t. They will next time.”
Cheika was coy about where Barnes would play if he was selected.
But indications are he will run in the inside centre slot and that the NSW coach will remain faithful to the halves combination of Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley.
”I’ve been conscious of giving some continuity to the nine and 10. Everyone has been far too quick to say different things [about them],” Cheika said.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.