Philosophical Cheika checks out
Sydney - There was a dig at a crucial refereeing decision but it was a philosophical, not fuming, Michael Cheika who signed off as Waratahs coach after a semi-final defeat to the Otago Highlanders on Saturday.
Cheika's temper has got him into trouble throughout his coaching career and many expected him to go off raging into the night after his final match in charge of the team he led to a maiden Super Rugby title last year.
The 32 632 crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium had made clear their disgust at referee Craig Joubert's decision to award a penalty try to the New Zealanders and sin-bin flank Jacques Potgieter in the 58th minute of the match.
Potgieter's offence was to swing his arm into the face of Patrick Osborne as the wing was trying to force the ball over the line for the Highlanders' fourth try and a 27-17 lead.
"Ah mate, I dunno, obviously I have a big gag on my mouth on what I can and can't say, but I know I haven't seen many head-high tackles 30cm from the ground," Cheika told reporters.
"But, let's also be mindful of the fact that, yes those decisions went against us, but the key areas where we needed to exert pressure - that being in the lineout and the ball from the lineout etc - we weren't able to manage."
Cheika, who will hand over to Daryl Gibson for next season so he can concentrate full time on the Wallabies job, joked that he would have sacked himself in any case after the way the team played.
"We didn't really get much shape about us, did we?" he added. "We hung in there, though, we stayed tough because we didn't really have any ball and not a lot of field position. There was only a couple of points in it at the penalty try but after that it got away from us."
Cheika opened with a statement of thanks to the same fans who had regularly booed the Waratahs off the pitch in the miserable season before he took over in 2012.
"I thought I might stay a little bit longer," he said. "It's hard because I'm extremely disappointed so I'm not going to go out and start singing praises.
"We talked about trying to make a reconnection with our fans, playing a style of rugby that people wanted to see, and having a real clear identity that our fans could identify with.
"And I think over the three years we've well and truly done that."