2013 Australian Super Rugby squads: NSW Waratahs

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    New Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has one year to get his side World Cup ready. (Image: Supplied)

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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

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