The Brisbane-based Waratahs are another team that will try to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding after a shockingly poor 2012.
It’s a worrying fact that they’ve almost had a coach a year since the departure of Ewen McKenzie at the end of 2008 when they made it to the final. Michael Cheika was appointed as head coach to replace Michael Foley who left to take the reign at the Western Force.
Cheika has been very tight-lipped about the captaincy, apparently waiting to see who will step up and earn the respect for the role. My money was on Benn Robinson who has made his desire very clear, but the latest news from the camp revealed that the responsibility to lead the Waratahs in their first pre-season friendly against the Rebels had fallen on the shoulders of scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin.
The announcement of their 2013 squad revealed the loss of only a few prominent players and some exiting new signings. The Waratahs managed to poach outstanding open-side flanker Michael Hooper from the Brumbies as well as contracting talented speedster Israel Folau who switched from Rugby League to Aussie Rules and now wants to play Super Rugby. Reportedly, Rocky Elsom had been released in order to get himself fit and healthy after a lengthy run with injuries.
I’m sure that they’ll depend largely on Berrick Barnes’ skill to dictate games with the boot as well as front-foot ball via guys like Tatafu Polota-Nau, Dave Dennis, Sitaleki Timani and Michael Hooper. A close eye should also be kept on the nippy little Brendan McKibbin around the fringes.
It is hard to understand why they fell apart so badly if you add the names in the backline to the above. I mean, Adam-Ashley Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell – those are world-class performers. Maybe their promise to take a more attacking approach this season will allow for some sparks and entertaining matches.
After already getting the news that hooker Damien Fitzpatrick would probably miss most of the Super Rugby season after suffering a setback to the knee injury that has already kept him off the field for a year, the Waratahs were dealt another blow. The ankle injury Kane Douglas picked up in a touch rugby match played during the Wallabys’ logistics training camp left coach Michael Cheika fuming as the lock will be sidelined for at least half of their pre-season training.
With international capped players in every position, one can by no means say that the team is inexperienced. To me they lack imagination and confidence, none of which can be turned around in such a short space of time; but I don’t think they’ll just give away any points.
It pains me to say it, but I don’t think they’re going to be up to scratch this year either. My prediction for the Tahs is a 12th place finish.
by Jackie Smit