Cheika backs playmaker partnership
WALLABIES boss Michael Cheika will continue with his new Kurtley Beale-Matt Toomua midfield against Argentina on the Gold Coast on Saturday night after what he rated a promising lift-off in some difficult circumstances.
Cheika's appraisal after the gritty 23-18 victory over South Africa at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium last Saturday night was significant because he's determined to find out if the new combination can provide an overall performance lift for his team.
As with many new combinations, the individual elements make sense before the partnership itself adds an extra five per cent lift with the way it purrs.
Against the Boks, Toomua's starch as a defender was critical three times in the tense final minutes when the South Africans were hard on attack and with chances to steal a win.
Two excellent front-on tackles to stall strong-running centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel, from the final scrum, plus a calculated rush to chop down dangerous Siya Kolisi were quality.
Taking on that tackling role at inside centre is a big plus for the Wallabies but the twin ball-playing dimension wasn't really in synch.
Beale was back to fullback by then but his willingness to take on the line with his running was obvious in the Test even if he didn't find an opening.
He will have cursed one spilt ball in the slippery conditions and he got hammered in one play off a lineout on his second touch when winger Jack Maddocks looped outside him rather than cut inside.
"I thought they did well and when Bernard (Foley) came on the triangle, the three of them, managed really well," Cheika said of the Beale-Toomua set-up.
"They did a good job out there in some difficult circumstances.
"They had some nice plays set up that just didn't come off but that's their first week together.
"We didn't have a heap of attack going but when the forwards got going forward at key times we got some overlaps."
Cheika indicated the pair would get the chance to build again against the Pumas, who were beaten 46-24 by the All Blacks in Nelson.
Cheika's overall vibe that the Wallabies had improved was important but he conceded that polish was still lacking on making more of chances created.
"We had double digit chances and couldn't get over the stripe. Part of that was probably being too eager but I really liked the intensity to it," Cheika said.
Improving that precision is huge. The Wallabies will likely get back Israel Folau (ankle) and Adam Coleman for this Test while David Pocock (neck) is still battling.
"We had one situation when a kick for penalty goal came off the upright and only one guy (Michael Hooper) was chasing for the rebound. On another occasion, Kurtley kicked to the corner and we clocked off when they took a short lineout throw," Cheika said.
"They are nothing more than concentrating (better) and that's the extra we have to add."