CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika is hoping his team learn the importance of maintaining a consistent level of performance after they overcame a halftime deficit to run out handsome winners over Argentina on Saturday.
After holding a 17-0 lead over New Zealand in their second test of the Rugby Championship only to lose and blowing a 20-10 lead in the second half of their draw with the Springboks last week, the Wallabies finally got a win.
“The whole season has been like that,” Cheika said “We are a good team but if we want to become a great one we’ve got deliver that (consistency), not even for the 80, just one minute to the next.
“And that’s tough, it’s just something we have to get better at, and what you get from tonight is just the players seeing the results of that.”
Five second-half tries were evidence of a much improved performance after the break in the 45-20 victory at Canberra Stadium and it was the manner of that performance that pleased Cheika most.
“The win is good, but I think more about the change in intensity, the way we played,” he said.
“We were on the front foot all the time, we were more aggressive, looking to hurt guys in the tackle. That’s what footy is and the win always comes as a consequence of that.”
Cheika was at a loss to explain why his side were so insipid in the first half, after which they trailed 13-10, before catching fire in the second.
“You’d need to be a neuro-scientist I reckon for that one, and maybe they wouldn’t even know the answer,” he said.
“It’s the puzzle of rugby, sometimes you’re ‘on’ and sometimes you’re not. We know we should be ‘on’ and we know we let ourselves down in the first half.
“We stayed in the fight at least, we stayed close enough and then from the first whistle in the second half they owned that and wanted to get better.”
Cheika said he was surprised by South Africa’s 57-0 loss to New Zealand in Saturday’s other Rugby Championship test and warned of a backlash from the Springboks when the Wallabies play them in their next match in Bloemfontein on Sept. 30.
“When we get to the high veldt, it’s going to be on, they’re going to be looking for some retribution on someone and it’s most likely going to be us,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready for that.”
Argentina were leading the All Blacks after an hour of their match last week and coach Daniel Hourcade was once again forced to try to explain why his side can be so competitive for an hour and still have no wins in this season’s tournament.
“Today, it was something mental,” he said. “Our players are prepared to play 80 minutes but when we had the opportunity to score we didn’t do it ... and when your head doesn’t help you, you cannot play.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ken Ferris