Michael Cheika resurrects Waratahs

Michael Cheika's passion for the game is rubbing off on his players. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Michael Cheika's passion for the game is rubbing off on his players. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Fire: Michael Cheika's passion for the game is rubbing off on his players. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Fire: Michael Cheika's passion for the game is rubbing off on his players. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY UNION

The NSW Waratahs have lauded meticulous coach Michael Cheika for transforming the Super Rugby under-achievers into minor premiers and title favourites.

Three years ago, the desperate Waratahs held an infamous fan forum asking diehards how the club could win back the public as support levels hit rock bottom.

Now Cheika has the Waratahs playing a vibrant brand of ball-in-hand rugby that may deliver long-suffering fans a first-ever Super crown.

From day one after his appointment last year, Cheika has made no secret of his priority to reconnect with disillusioned fans and build a winning, family culture.

The former Randwick and European-Cup winning coach spent 2013 overhauling the Waratahs' attack.

The rewards followed - the Waratahs can boast the best attacking record in the competition this year and claimed seven tryscoring bonus points.

The Waratahs also now have the competition's best defence and defence coach Nathan Grey credits Cheika for it all coming together.

"He's a guy who knows what he wants to achieve and goes about putting in a really good plan about achieving that and then maintaining the course in doing that and not wavering from it," Grey said.

"That's very easily said but very difficult to do.

"He's someone who is very driven and very inspiring."

Cheika won over the players with his old-school approach.

"He's been awesome," said lock Kane Douglas.

"He wants his forwards to be physical ... get your head in there, get stuck in, get dirty and let the backs do the work out wide.

"It's a pretty basic sort of set-up for us forwards. He's been awesome.

"He certainly gets up you if you're not training hard and he doesn't mind giving you a little spray if you need to work harder.

"He wants to stand for what he says, so he doesn't want you to say you're going to do something and not deliver."

Hard-nosed and uncompromising, Cheika's team-first approach has also earned the players' respect - and landed the coach in hot water with officials.

Cheika smashed a door in the visiting team's coaches' box during NSW's round-three loss to the Brumbies and was then fined and earned a six-month suspended ban for abusing a cameraman in Durban.

"Just his passion for the game and for life is something that I've taken a lot from," said backline utility Rob Horne.

"It's been really good for rugby in general to have someone with that charisma to come into the game and to really express his love for rugby and his team.

""It can't be said enough how important that's been for us." - AAP

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