Cheika backs his Waratahs leader

NSW coach Michael Cheika is backing berated skipper Dave Dennis to lead the Waratahs to the 2014 Super Rugby title.

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Dennis was one of eight so-called Waratahs `booze brothers’ reprimanded for breaking curfew before Australia’s Test win over Ireland in Dublin last week and Cheika said the NSW captain would no doubt feel disappointed.

Cheika, though, has no plans to pull out the big stick or deliver any pep talks when Dennis and his chastened teammates return next month from the five-Test spring tour.

Instead, he will reward his Wallabies tourists with five weeks off before moving on with the business of trying to end NSW’s 17-year wait for Super glory.

“Dave Dennis is an excellent captain here. An excellent player, an excellent man,” Cheika said on Wednesday.

“The punishment is relative to the coach. Every coach has his ways.

“(Wallabies coach) Ewen (McKenzie) has decided to make a punishment. That’s fair enough. That’s what he decides. The players have to wear that because they’re in that environment.

“But for me Dave Dennis is an example of wanting to give for your team, a well respected captain and I expect when he comes back here he’s going to be an even better captain for the experiences that he’s had.”

Far from concerned by the distraction in Europe, Cheika is convinced the Waratahs have the artillery and maturity to seize the title in his second year at the helm.

“We don’t need to keep saying it over and over again – we want to win,” he said.

“We’re preparing to have that type of finish.”

Even in the absence of his Test stars and with the likes of marquee recruit Kurtley Beale still to resume contact work following shoulder surgery, Cheika is adamant the Waratahs are well ahead of where they were in their pre-season preparation last year.

“Obviously because we know how I operate, at the team’s training we’re at a much higher level of intensity earlier,” he said.

The former European Cup-winning coach said he was excited by the prospect of Beale and superstar convert Israel Folau linking up in the Waratahs backline in 2014.

“It’s going to be great to see those guys playing together,” Cheika said.

“Kurtley’s charting well and he’s doing a lot of good work. He’s come back into the football side of things a lot earlier actually than we thought he would.

“So, all going well, come December he’ll be fully integrated into the skills work and by January he’ll be into the contact side of the game.”

And by February 1, Beale will be on deck for the Waratahs’ first pre-season trial against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury-Wodonga.

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