(Reuters) - Former Australia head coach Michael Cheika has called on the New South Wales Waratahs to continue giving young players opportunities despite a dismal season that ended with a record-breaking run of 13 consecutive defeats.
Cheika, who coached the Waratahs from 2013 to 2015 and was linked with a return to the role after Rob Penney was fired in March, said the struggles faced by the team's inexperienced squad will strengthen them in the long run.
"There is a core group of players that are here at the Waratahs right now that they need to keep and bring through," Cheika told Stan Sport.
"Because the scars of the grief that they've been getting will be the birth of the successes that they will have later on because they won't want to go through this again.
"It's that simple. If you do and you want to sit through that again, then you don't deserve that contract.
"I'm sure guys like Will Harrison - and there's a group of eight or nine of them - that they need to keep rolling so those scars turn into the success of later years."
The Waratahs followed up a winless campaign in Super Rugby AU with five defeats out of five in the Trans-Tasman competition against teams from New Zealand to lose all 13 of their games in 2021.
That run of defeats is a Super Rugby record for an Australian team and Cheika said there had to be greater defensive focus in the future.
"I just think defence is an integral part of the spiritual side of your team, where the energy comes from and where the long game is won," he said.
"That's a starting point. Then there's obviously lots of other things. There's no one fix."
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)