NEW ZEALAND HEAD coach New Zealand coach Steve Hansen on Thursday launched an impassioned defence of Wallabies rival Michael Cheika, pointing to how Manchester United stuck with Alex Ferguson before an unprecedented run of football success.
After Hansen and Cheika named their teams for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Japan, the All Blacks coach offered support to his opposite number, who survived calls for his head thanks to a stunning 45-34 comeback win over Argentina earlier this month.
“I do know that continuity has been proven over and over again to be a pretty good recipe,” said Hansen.
“Look at Alex Ferguson. He was just about to get the sack and went on to do the job for 30 years — and he wasn’t too bad.”
Hansen likened Cheika’s position to current United manager Jose Mourinho, who has come under fire after a poor start to the season.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen. Source: DPA/PA Images
“Mourinho is probably in a similar boat at the moment,” said Hansen. “They’re going to decide what they’re going to do with him because it’s probably not going as well as they would like.
“I just think that sometimes we pull the trigger too quickly on the coach — sometimes I guess it is warranted, but most time I don’t think it is,” he added.
Sonny Bill Williams is set to play his 50th Test on Saturday as the All Blacks named a strong team for the third Bledisloe Cup game in Yokohama.
“I didn’t think 50 caps was a possibility when I first started playing rugby,” said the code-hopping superstar.
“My feet are firmly on the ground. I haven’t had many minutes playing rugby this year but I’ve got confidence in my ability and it helps playing alongside these magicians.”
World champions New Zealand, chasing a 3-0 series whitewash having extended their 15-year stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup, also recalled fellow centre Ryan Crotty while Damian McKenzie returns at fullback.