2013 Australian Super Rugby squads: NSW Waratahs

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Our series on the chances of the Australian Super Rugby for 2013 continues, with perennial under-achievers the NSW Waratahs.

O Atkins, M Hooper, L Timani (EPS), G Hart (EPS), P Betham, M Hodge, C Crawford

Dean Mumm, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, Chris Alcock, Sarel Pretorius, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Daniel Halangahu, Tevita Metuisela, Nathan Trist, Lotu Taukeiaho, Atieli Pakalani

Season chances
The Waratahs have finally had the cleanout they needed, including players and staff alike. Some serious dead wood have been detached from the structure and how they rebuild in 2013 is the key to how the Waratahs perform over the coming years.

I suspect they will improve on the lacklustre 2012 season, however their season is heavily reliant on some injury-prone individuals.

Palu, Poluta-Nau, Barnes and Horne sit in core positions for the Tahs, but to date have not stayed fit long enough to give the team some continuity. This will have to change (or the players in these positions will) if they hold any hope of bumping the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds in 2013.

Predicted finish – conference third – overall ninth

Key player
Players love having a big man on the field that will run hard and tackle even harder. For past seasons the Tahs have relied on Palu for this inspiration, despite his limited game time. This torch has now been passed to Sitaleki Timani.

He will need to continue his bustling form to give the Tahs players the inspiration needed. He has been outstanding in the Wallabies jersey and I expect him to improve in the coming season. He will need to continue to deliver his hard running and jarring hits to help inspire the sky blue to have some self-belief.

Up and comer
Peter Betham’s form in New Zealand’s ITM Cup has people sitting up and taking notice. I had written him off two years ago after drifting between the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Waratahs. But if he can translate this ITM form to Super Rugby, and the coaching staff utilise him in a similar fashion to Digby Ioane, he could be just what they need to become a more attacking team.

Best buy
Michael Hooper became the prince of Australian Rugby in 2012 and is already looking to dethrone the king of the breakdown, David Pocock. If the Tahs can utilise his assets, he will continue to develop as a player and as an on-field leader.

2013 is a defining year for Hooper and I hope he doesn’t drown in the sea of sky blue, like so many other big signings have in the past.

Biggest loss
I don’t think the Waratahs lost any player who didn’t need to be let go, or could be adequately replaced. Vickerman was a great player and source of motivation, but was not in career best form.

The same can be said of Elsom, who never showed the Australian public what he showed the Irish with his time at Leinster.

Best team
1. Benn Robinson
2. Tatafu Poluta-Nau
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Sitaleki Timani
5. Kane Douglas
6. Dave Dennis
7. Michael Hooper
8. Wycliff Palu
9. Brendan McKibbin
10. Brendan Foley
11. Drew Mitchell
12. Adam Ashley-Cooper
13. Rob Horne
14. Israel Folau
15. Berrick Barnes

16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Greg Peterson
19. Lopeti Timani
20. Grayson Hart
21. Tom Kingston
22. Peter Betham

Other squad
23. John Ulugia
24. Jeremy Tilse
25. Ollie Atkins
26. Pat McCutheon
27. Michael Hodge
28. Cam Crawford
29. Tom Carter
30. Lachie Turner

Extended playing squad (EPS)
31. Luke Holmes – hooker
32. Jed Holloway – lock
33. Matt Lucas – scrum half
34. Ben Volavola – five-eighth
35. Sam Lane – five-eighth