First-time NSW Waratahs skipper Benn Robinson says he’ll lead by example against the physically powerful Sharks in Saturday’s desperation Super Rugby clash at Allianz Stadium.
Robinson has never captained a team before and takes the reins with the Waratahs at a crossroads, staring down the barrell of their worst ever start to a Super Rugby season.
The Wallabies prop might be new to the job, but he has a clear take on what kind of leader he needs to be to help the Waratahs turn their fortunes around against their physical South African opponents.
Robinson is planning on getting his hands dirty against the big Sharks forwards and set an example for his teammates to follow.
“I think my role is more to provide a voice when it’s needed as well as that inspiration at times,” Robinson said.
“There’s only so much I can say leading up to the game and during the game and if I can stand out there and have a strong performance and lead by example, I think that’s the best thing I can do.”
Embarrassed by the Force at home last week, coach Michael Foley has opted for a freshen-up, most notably introducing a brand new halves pairing in Berrick Barnes and Brendan McKibbin.
Incumbent captain and five-eighth Daniel Halangahu has been moved back to the bench, with Tom Carter to start at inside centre, while South African import Sarel Pretorius has also received a demotion to the interchange bench to make way for McKibbin at No.9.
Part of Foley’s thinking is Pretorius needs a rest after a taxing opening few weeks, and he indicated NSW’s star signing would soon assume his role back in the starting side.
While McKibbin has never started a Super Rugby match before, he’s also an accomplished goal-kicker, and with Barnes still treading carefully after a quad strain, he might be elevated as first choice kicker.
Foley will make a final decision on whether Barnes or McKibbin will kick on Friday at the captain’s run, but insisted changes were required in the playmaking department.
“We felt it was time for Berrick to assume the position he was intended to start with at the beginning of the year,” said Foley.
“We obviously went with three ball players for the last couple of weeks and probably felt we weren’t necessarily getting the go forward we needed and felt it was time for Berrick to step back into that role at 10.
“Sarel’s … got a few bumps and bruises. He’s extremely valuable to us and our intention with all our players is to try and avoid injuries rather than pushing people to the point where they break down.”
Pretorius, who possesses a dangerous running game, is likely to be injected into the action late in the match.
Wycliff Palu makes a timely return at No.8 to add some much needed muscle for the Waratahs, and brothers Sitaleki and Lopeti Timane will do the same off the bench – their first ever match playing together.