SYDNEY - Australia coach Michael Cheika is determined the Wallabies will not get carried away with their 23-18 victory over New Zealand on Saturday and warned them plenty of work lies ahead if they are to catch up with the world champions.
The victory in Brisbane snapped a seven-game losing streak against the All Blacks going back to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final and could hardly have come at a better time for the Australian game.
It was the first win for any professional Australian team over New Zealand opponents this year after the five Super Rugby franchises failed to achieve the feat in 26 attempts.
The off-the-field public relations disaster of reducing those five franchises to four for next year, a home defeat to Scotland and two losses to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship all also contributed to a feeling of a game under siege.
Cheika’s first thoughts after the game on Saturday and again on Sunday were with the Wallabies fans, who often have to defend their code against the barbs of the supporters of the more popular rugby league and Australian rules football.
“I’m really pleased in particular for the fans. I’m not just saying that,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.
“The ups and downs of the game, that’s what rugby’s about and to give them that type of enjoyment afterwards . . . as the national team, we’re trying to unite everyone in the code when we turn up to play.
“(But) I’m very realistic, it’s one win, it was hard-earned. We’ll enjoy it for what it is, and then continue on with what we’ve got to do.”
Cheika’s long-stated ambition is to be the No. 1 team in the world, a goal that would require Australia to beat New Zealand frequently enough to knock the All Blacks off the top of the rankings.
That would also result in the return to Australia after a decade-and-a-half of the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman Sea rugby supremacy that New Zealand retained for a 15th year courtesy of its wins in Sydney and Dunedin this year.
“I’m always got in the back of my mind that our duty is to bring home the trophy which we haven’t done,” Cheika said on Saturday.
“As happy as I am, and I am very happy for the players because they have been working hard, the end game is to bring home the Cup and we came up short there this year.
“As enjoyable as that win was, the disappointment of not winning the cup still resonates with me.
“It’s obviously something we’ve got to try our best and our hardest to do next year, because you know New Zealand are only going to get better.
“We’ve got to keep improving as well.”