Cheika caps remarkable double
Sydney - Bernard Foley's late penalty will go down in the record books as winning Waratahs their first Super Rugby title but for coach Michael Cheika, the triumph was built on getting all the little things right.
Flyhalf Foley's 79th minute kick from range gave the Waratahs a thrilling 33-32 victory over the seven-times champion Crusaders in front of an ecstatic crowd of 61 823 at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The victory capped the revolution Cheika has inspired in his two years back in Sydney, transforming an underachieving team coming off its worst season and regularly booed off the park by dwindling crowds into southern hemisphere champions.
Manpower changes have played their part, as has a running style of rugby that has overwhelmed several opponents this year.
Most of all, however, it is Cheika's emphasis on the detail that shows the character of the team.
"We've really hung in in situations where we've struggled this year," the jubilant Sydneysider told reporters.
"Because of the way we play, you can really get into trouble if teams come hard at you.
"We lost our way a bit in the second half and we had to get ourselves back on track. But we really persisted. And that persistence in the small things is the really good character in the team."
Cheika said he had particularly enjoyed the reaction of his players when the late penalty, which at 44 metres was outside Foley's normal range, was awarded for a Richie McCaw ruck infringement.
"What I liked about it was that the players really believed in him, there was no hesitation, no doubt, he stepped up and said 'I'll take responsibility for this," he said.
"That really pleased me because one thing we've been trying to do here is to get people to take responsibility, not worrying about losing or not making the kick."
Cheika has another year left on his contract and, despite being linked with the Argentine national team, said he was going nowhere even if he had already achieved his main goal.
"We made ourselves the opportunity this year and we took it and that was really nice," he said.
"It does not mean that we're not going to try and do it again next year, I can guarantee you that."
Cheika paid tribute to every member of his squad and his backroom staff but had a special word for experienced centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who scored both of the team's tries.
"There's one word to describe that guy on and off the field and that's class," he said.
"He delivers every week, consistently."
The victory gives Cheika a unique coaching double after he led Irish province Leinster to a Heineken Cup triumph in 2009.
"They're both great but the thing that's extra here is that I had all my family and friends and it's my home state," he said.
"(And) I was just moved and touched by the crowd. I think this year has been the year that New South Welshmen and women decided it's alright to cheer.
"We're passionate as well about supporting our home state and it was a really awesome feeling when they started carrying on like that.
"They probably got us over the line with that little bit extra at the end."