Tahs focus on Force not Cheika inquiry

Michael Cheika. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Michael Cheika. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


NSW Waratahs captain Dave Dennis insists having coach Michael Cheika hauled before a judiciary next week will have no bearing on the side's performance in Saturday's Super Rugby crunch match with the Western Force in Perth.

Cheika faces possible sanction over an alleged sideline confrontation with a TV cameraman in South Africa.

Super Rugby's governing body SANZAR says it completed an investigation into the incident in NSW's loss to the Sharks in Durban on March 29 and is sending it to a hearing on Wednesday.

South African TV broadcaster Super Sport lodged a complaint after Cheika sought, and was denied, entry to the playing field to deliver lineout instructions to lock Kane Douglas after Dennis was sin-binned.

It's understood the cameraman was filming Cheika and that the Waratahs coach brushed him away.

The case will be heard by SANZAR judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC via teleconference but Dennis on Thursday said the matter was no distraction to the Waratahs.

"Cheik's greatest strength is he wears his heart on his sleeve," Dennis said.

"What he's also been good at as well is keeping this separate from the team's focus.

"Obviously that's an issue he's going to have to deal with, but he hasn't mentioned that at all to the team and I'm sure he'll handle that individually and not let it affect the team's preparation."

The Waratahs privately believe the whole issue is a storm in a tea cup and Dennis said there was certainly nothing sinister in Cheika's actions.

"Obviously I was sitting on the naughty chair but I knew what his intentions were," he said.

"He was coming down [from the coaches' box] and trying to get a message out because, with me being off, he was probably a bit worried about who was going to call the lineouts.

"I could see what he was trying to do. He was obviously coming down to deal with the fact that I wasn't on the field. No more than that."

Fourth-placed NSW must snap the fifth-placed Force's club-record four-game winning streak to ensure they remain above them in the Australian conference.

The Tahs will be boosted by Israel Folau's return after the Wallabies fullback was, on Thursday, named to make his comeback in a new-look back three after missing two matches with a throat injury.

Folau will line up alongside Rob Horne and Cam Crawford, who were named on the wings, while Kurtley Beale returns to inside centre.

Crawford replaces speedster Peter Betham, who is out with a broken foot.

It will be his first game in the top grade for 2014 after shoulder surgery in the off-season hampered his preparations.

Horne, who was suspended for one match for a high shot on the Sharks' Francois Steyn, gets a second crack in the No 14 jumper after a knee injury to Alofa Alofa.

With Wycliff Palu unavailable due to an ankle injury, Dennis remains at No 8. AAP


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