NSW Waratahs

Super Rugby Preview – NSW Waratahs

Super Rugby Preview – NSW Waratahs

2014 Recap

The 2015 Super Rugby season commences in unfamiliar territory for the NSW Waratahs. For the first time ever, 2014 wasn’t a season where the hype and expectation exceeded the results on the field. No more will Rod Kafer be able to smugly say that the Waratahs are in the 10th year of their five year plan. A whole lot of blood, sweat, tears and even an ill-conceived fan forum paved the way for the NSW Waratahs to hoist the Super Rugby trophy in 2014 after a dramatic last gasp penalty goal from Bernard Foley to defeat the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium last August.

Everything clicked into place for the Waratahs last season which culminated in a nine match winning streak to bring home the title. Very few injuries and brilliant form from key players combined to deliver the Waratahs their first Super Rugby title. Fans will be hoping that the second one isn’t too far away.

There is certainly no sign of complacency at Moore Park with the team remaining incredibly focused. 2015 has begun with the Waratahs talking about how they need to keep working hard and focus on improving what they did last year.

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Doing the hard yards. There are no short cuts in 2015, just lots of hard work.

Changes

The biggest loss is clearly Kane Douglas’ move to Leinster. Douglas had arguably his best Super Rugby season in 2014 and was the grunt in the engine room that ensured the job was done. With Will Skelton the only out and out lock in the squad, it looks like plenty of backrowers will be spending time locking down the scrum. Returning from a knee reconstruction, Dave Dennis is being touted as an option at lock so it will be interesting to see his progression in the position. After a breakout NRC season, Jed Holloway will also be looking for opportunities and his best chance might also be at lock.

Alofa Alofa’s time at the Waratahs was short and sweet. In just a year he came from obscurity, started the majority of the games and won a Super Rugby title before saying bonne nuit and joining La Rochelle in France. There’s no shortage of options on the wing however with powerhouse Taqele Naiyaravoro and schoolboy prodigy Andrew Kellaway looking to provide able support to Rob Horne and Peter Betham.

Other new recruits to the squad are former leaguie Sam Lousi, Jack Dempsey, Vasa Faleali’i and Henry Clunies-Ross.

Cam Crawford and Matt Lucas have also left the team heading to Melbourne and Brisbane respectively.

Luck of the draw

With byes in rounds 3 and 8, the Waratahs have a run of ten straight games leading into the finals. Player management will be crucial to ensure that key players are fit and fresh for any eventual tilt at defending their title come the finals.

The Tahs don’t head to South Africa until round 16 but facing the Lions and Cheetahs in the Republic is a fantastic draw, at least on paper.

The Waratahs in 2015

Props: Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Mike Alaalatoa
Hookers: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tolu Latu, Hugh Roach
Locks: Will Skelton, Jacques Potgieter, Mitch Chapman, Sam Lousi
Flankers: Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Steve Hoiles, Pat McCutcheon, Jack Dempsey
Number 8: Wycliff Palu, Tala Gray, Jed Holloway
Halfbacks: Nick Phipps, Brendan McKibbin, Vasa Faleali’i
Fly halves: Bernard Foley, Ben Volavola, Dave Horwitz
Centres: Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Jono Lance, Matt Carraro
Wings: Rob Horne, Peter Betham, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway, Henry Clunies-Ross
Fullback: Israel Folau

There’s no mystery how the Waratahs will play in 2015. They will be physical and aggressive and play an expansive style that was so successful for them in 2014. Offloading, support play and supreme fitness are the hallmarks of their game and if they get on top physically, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale will again be hard to handle.

Teams that managed to choke the Tahs fared the best in 2014. With only an average kicking game and an adversity to using it, some teams managed to trap the Waratahs in their own 22 and that sort of pressure is what is required to get on top of them.

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Jacques Potgieter became a crowd favourite in 2014 and fans will dying to see him charging out of the tunnel in 2015.

Best XV

1. Robinson 2. Polota-Nau 3.Kepu 4. Skelton 5. Potgieter 6. Dennis 7. Hooper 8 . Palu 9. Phipps 10. Foley 11. Horne 12. Beale 13. Ashley-Cooper 14. Betham 15. Folau

Predicted finish

They’ve got the cattle and if they stay healthy and focused, there’s no reason the Waratahs can’t go back to back. They’ll have a target on their back from round one and every team will be out for their scalp. Waratahs fans will be hoping the team is good enough to go all the way again in 2015.

NSW Waratahs

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