Champion Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says Rob Penney must take responsibility for the club’s dire predicament.
Champion Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says Rob Penney must take responsibility for the club’s dire predicament and rejects the dumped NSW mentor’s assertion that he was made a scapegoat for a 0-5 start to the Super Rugby season.
Cheika, who led NSW to their first and only Super Rugby title in 2014, was speaking on a Stan Sport special, Where to now for the Waratahs, following Penney’s sacking on Sunday.
The Kiwi coach arrived in Sydney last season with an impressive CV from his time with Canterbury, the Crusaders and Munster, among other clubs, but was unable to deliver results with a painfully young Waratahs roster.
“I don’t know Rob personally,” Cheika said on a Stan Sport panel discussion hosted by Nick McArdle and also featuring former NSW star Morgan Turinui.
“He looks like a top fella and he’s coached with a lot of experience before but I believe the whole coaching selection piece is very three dimensional.
“Right person for the right team at the right time – I think maybe that was where the problem came. Maybe that was the case at that time.
“They made that decision and gave the opportunity. It’s a decision and you can never be 100 per cent sure whether it’s a right one or a wrong one but at a certain point, they made a decision.”
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The Waratahs host the defending champion Brumbies at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday and will be led by Penney’s former assistants Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker.
Cheika, who parted way with the Wallabies after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, disagreed with Turinui’s call that Penney had been made the scapegoat for systemic issues at the club.
“I don’t think it’s a scapegoat play at all,” Cheika said.
“In the professional game the coach is in charge. You know your circumstances, you try and modify them, you try and change them. It’s not a personal slant, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you get the bullet.
“You take responsibility for the team that you coach. You do your absolute best to get them there. You have to have skin in the game to make the changes necessary to get them to the point that you agree with your organisation at the start when you come in.
“Maybe he hasn’t met the criteria of what they want.”
Cheika added that despite a limited and youthful roster, the Waratahs players were simply not delivering on some non-negotiables.
“I really feel defence inside of the game is something you don’t need a lot of talent for,” Cheika said.
“I think that part of it hasn’t been up to the level required.”
Cheika also had some interesting comments on Stan Sport after Saturday’s crushing 46-14 loss to the Reds but before Penney’s sacking.
“This is what happens – we’ll point the finger at the coach,” Cheika said.
“That could be right, that could be wrong. But the coach has got to fight.
“When the coach fights then everyone goes and follows him and fights. None of this doubt or ‘I don’t know.’ You’re the man, you’re in the slot, you’re representing us, we believe in you.
“I would say that myself and that’s how you’ve got to approach it. When you set that agenda, everyone follows you.”
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