Legendary NSW rugby captains Simon Poidevin and Phil Waugh have hailed the appointment of fellow flanker Dave Dennis as the Waratahs’ 2013 leader, a choice made by new coach Michael Cheika just 20 minutes before its public announcement.
Dennis, 27, replaces prop Benn Robinson following a 2012 Super Rugby campaign which ended with the Waratahs suffering eight straight losses to finish 11th with a 4-12 record.
He enjoyed a breakout year in 2012, winning the Waratahs’ Players’ Player of the year and making his Test debut, playing in all of Australia’s 15 Tests.
Dennis confirmed Cheika had only informed him he would be captain less than half an hour before telling the rest of the world.
“It’s true, it’s a bit of a surprise, but something I’m extremely proud of and he (Cheika) goes about things a bit differently, but it’s been received well,” Dennis said.
Asked why he had waited to virtually the last minute to make his decision, Cheika said: “What I wanted to do is make sure I took enough time to assess who would be the leader of the team.”
The decision certainly met with the approval of Poidevin and Waugh.
“I think it’s a fabulous choice of captain. He had an incredible year last year,” Poidevin told AAP.
“He’s a guy who gets it. He’s come from club rugby, he’s had a great affinity with the community and juniors and he’s a standout leader.”
Waugh, who played alongside Dennis in the Waratahs team, described the new NSW captain as passionate and loyal.
“He works hard, he’s certainly got the respect from all the players and he’s got that probably rare ability to connect with everyone in the squad which is such an important part of being a captain,” Waugh said.
“I think it’s a great choice.”
Dennis said he would lead by deed rather than word and revealed Waugh and Robinson were among people he would consult on captaincy.
“He’s just got to continue to be himself. He’ll put his own mark on the captaincy,” Waugh said.
Cheika said Dennis had earned the right to captain NSW after performing at club, Super and Test levels.
“Given to certain players, the captaincy will certainly make you a better player and I have no doubt that David will take that up,” Cheika said.
Cheika said the Waratahs wouldn’t have a leadership group, but he would appoint a couple of vice-captains after consulting Dennis.
Dennis acknowledged there would be pressure on the Waratahs to perform after a disastrous 2012 campaign, but wasn’t about to make promises and predictions about the coming season.
“You can’t say a lot – we’ve just got to show it,” Dennis said.
“We can’t make any guarantees, but what I will say is we will try everything we can to perform and to make the state proud.
“Passionate performances, try and play attacking rugby.”
Cheika expected to have close to a full complement of players available for the first game against Queensland, with back Berrick Barnes expected to be right to face his former team despite suffering a knee knock on Tuesday.