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Cheika optimistic after improved Wallabies display

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Wallabies proud of how they played but they need to make sure they don't sit down on that and keep improving

All Blacks Beauden Barrett is tackled by Wallabies Tevita Kuridrani during the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship matchon Saturday.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was still downcast after his side’s narrow Rugby Championship loss to New Zealand but the match showed him his team could play at the same level as the world champions.

The Wallabies were embarrassed by the All Blacks in Sydney last week when they were hammered 54-34 but lifted their performance in Dunedin, built on a stinging defence and far more direct attack.

While they blew an early 17-0 advantage, they defended superbly in the third quarter and then took a 29-28 lead with four minutes remaining through a Kurtley Beale try before Beauden Barrett struck back to seal a 35-29 victory.

“We can’t be happy with losing,” Cheika told reporters in Sydney upon the team’s return from New Zealand. “We can be proud of how we performed but we need to make sure that we don’t sit down on that and that we keep improving for the next one.

“We can play at this level, it’s about being consistent and it’s about having the mental aptitude to play at that level all the time, never having a minute off.”

The Wallabies now have a week off before they meet a resurgent South Africa side in Perth on September 9, a place where the national side may not be made welcome after the turmoil in domestic rugby this season.

The Perth-based Western Force are battling the national body over the decision to dump the side from Super Rugby next season and local media have reported of a grassroots campaign for fans to wear Force jerseys at the match.

Reuters