Wallabies' defence the highlight for Cheika

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 15:24

REACTION: Australia are beginning to make a habit of scoring more tries than the opposition, but still losing the match.

Their 10-18 loss to South Africa in Pretoria at the weekend was the third time this year that the Wallabies scored more tries than the opposition and lost.

The Australians scored the only try of the match, but the boot of Morné Steyn (four penalties and two drop-goals) secured the victory for the Springboks.

Twice in the June series against England - in the 28-39 loss in the first Test (four tries to three) and 40-44 in the third Test (five tries to four) - the Aussies also lost.

Despite the weekend's defeat Australian coach Michael Cheika was full of praise for his team's defensive effort - as they kept the Boks tryless.

In their first five Tests of the year - defeats to England and New Zealand - the Wallabies conceded 19 tries.

In the last three matches - two wins and a loss - they coughed up just four tries.

Cheika said the Wallabies' defensive system has been a work in progress since conceding four tries en route to a 40-44 defeat against England in the third Test in June.

"We started the year by giving too many tries away," the Aussie mentor said.

"In the England series we scored five tries and lost the game - I don't know how.

"In the games against New Zealand we gave a few away as well," Cheika said of an 8-42 loss in Sydney on August 20 and a 9-29 defeat in Wellington a week later.

Cheika felt his team was in a good space at the moment - with the players buying into the team culture and putting their best foot forward on the playing field.

He pointed out that the two tries the Boks scored against his team in Brisbane last month came from an intercept and a knock-on, which the Boks managed to turn into an effective counter-attack.

 "A good sign of a team coming together is [how they perform on] defence and we are building our team harmony, our friendships and the things that happen off the field as well," the coach said.
 "That's what defence is - you want to tackle and defend for each other when you on the field.
 "Our technique has been better and improved, ][because] we've worked hard at it," Cheika said.

The coach felt it is important for the Wallabies to keep their consistency on defence and focus on winning the battle at the breakdown.

"I still think we can get ourselves onto the ball on the ground a bit more.

"We've tidied up over the last three games on our defence and we need to keep improving that," explained Cheika.

The Wallabies headed to London on Sunday, to start preparations for their final Rugby Championship match of the year.

They will face Argentina in a historic match at Twickenham - the first Rugby Championship encounter to be staged in the Northern Hemisphere.

By Josh Isaacson

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