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Friday, January 27, 2006

 

Super 14: Focus on Waratahs




Source: thesilverfern.com
Article by Lee Grant

NSW had their best season in professional rugby last year, and Sydneysiders will be expecting much the same in 2006. But the Waratahs will miss experienced players more than people think.

Changes
NSW had the 2nd best lineout in the 2005 S12, but Harrison will be sorely missed there this year. Cannon’s absence will be regretted also, because when Freier started things went wrong at scrum time.

MacKay played some good flyhalf footie at the Super12 level last year and coach McKenzie was pissed that he went west, but either Norton-Knight or Donnelly should do the job well enough unless Link opts for Rogers there, despite his not having a wide pass.

Grey will be missed because his reading of defensive play in the midfield was so important to the NSW 2005 season. His missing leadership, plus that of Cannon and Harrison will bring NSW back to the pack.

This season we Sydney fans will be getting our first Super viewings of hooker Polota-Nau, no.8 Houston and scrummie Holmes, who are all looked upon as future starting Wallabies; in fact, TPN has already played for Oz from the bench. The other two won’t get a lot of game time, but it will be interesting if they do.

Strengths
Backline Depth: Despite losing MacKay and Grey, NSW will have, arguably, the best backline depth of any team in the Super14 because of the acquisition of Sailor, Sheehan, Holmes and Norton-Knight, the discovery that Tuqiri can play 13 and Rogers 10, plus the availability of Academy players like Halangahu if injuries occur.

Back row: The cover for 6 and 8 is as impressive as backline depth with Elsom, Hoiles, Houston, Lyons, Palu and Caldwell all vying for 2 spots. Waugh is the only specialist fetcher but hooker Freier is a de facto fetcher anyway and if Waugh is absent, Freier will start and one of the 6s will play 7.

Coaching: The NSWRU breathed a sigh of relief when McKenzie said he wouldn’t apply for the Oz job and signed up through to 2008 the other day. Sometimes I don’t think his game plans are appropriate but there is no doubt that he lifted the Waratahs to another level in 2005, nor is there any question whether or not the players are behind him.

Weaknesses
Lineout: Harrison, last year's NSW lineout leader, has gone offshore and if Vickerman is not fit to start the season, or gets injured, it will be ugly. Kanaar or Caldwell will do their best but they are not elite lineout men.

Lack of depth: Like a lot of Oz teams, the tight five lacks depth and although their best 5 will hold their own most of the time at the Super14 level, the backups are very raw.

Rustiness: 9 of the Waratahs likely starters were Wallaby regulars on the EOYT and so were constrained from doing early S14 training or playing in the first 2 trial matches. They will be over-training to get fitness back so there will be some leg-weariness in the first few games.

Draw
Not a particularly good or bad draw.

Questions
Will the Waratahs tight five forwards stay healthy to disguise their lack of depth there? Who will play where in the backline?

Look out for
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau We have seen his ball-playing skills in cameos on the Wallabies EOYT, but look forward to see the young man put on some hard hits. Also look for: Lote Tuqiri as outside centre and Mat Rogers as flyhalf.

Prediction
NSW will be the Oz team least affected by defections to the WForce and overseas but the likely deterioration in leadership and at lineout time might see them dropping a couple of places, but still making the finals. 4th
Comments:
More Kerels, jislaaik I'm glad that its Friday!!!

The practice wasn't so bad yesterday evening, I actually enjoyed it. It turned out to be trails for 7's, and I was dog tired afterwards. Got two tries, one or two nice hits and was dumped unceremoniously once. Only handled the ball about 4 times, not many opportunities.
It might have been becuase of the rest of my team....we were 3 props, a hooker, a lock a scrummie and me! Interesting I tell you!
 
I still want to see if they don't choke again like they used to do before last year.

I also don't believe their forward pack is up to it. I do think they will end in the top half on the table. Definately the best of the Aussie sides.
 
My long time pal Lee Grant has got his wires twisted a bit - I think he has been watching too many teams and has got his facts a bit mixed up.

To say that the Waratahs have the greatest backline depth is surely well wide of the mark.

The Blues have backs to burn - infact they could put out 2 complete backlines that would enhance any team in the comp. I can't wait to see the destruction that Lavea (10) and McAlister (12) are going to wreak when they get going - they are probably the two most talented rookies I've ever seen, and this season should be
the start of a super era for the Blues pair.

I think the critics are being carried away with media talk concerning the S14 teams - none of them have shown their true hands, except perhaps the Force, and every team will be different from those played in the trials. It's a fools nightmare making comments about a team based on pre-season form,

Patrick.
 
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