Will the Waratahs make positive or negative changes?

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    Tom Carter in action for the NSW Waratahs. AAP Image/David Crosling

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    Where to now for the Waratahs? Two early losses sees them in eighth spot and staring down the barrel of a tough season.

    Their next matches are against the Force, Sharks and Chiefs. The first two are at home and the last is looming against a side playing well in Hamilton.

    The key for the Waratahs is that they have to be positive. One loss came about giving up a 70-metre try after the hooter. We could dwell on kicking away possession with thirty seconds on the clock but I think enough has been said about that night already.

    The second loss was a one-point thriller against the form New Zealand team, in New Zealand. The Highlanders have now claimed the scalps of both the Crusaders and the Waratahs at Forsyth Barr and if they keep this up they’ll build a fortress reputation to replace their old House of Pain.

    It would be quite easy for the Waratahs to focus on the negatives, dwell on their errors and feel sorry for themselves. Bernard Foley pointed at a failure in skills after the weekend. Many of us fans have looked at the injury list and groaned.

    To focus on the negatives and think that they are the only team suffering would be a mistake. They need to look at their positives and select a few key areas to improve in.

    The front row are scrummaging superbly and should be stronger if they swap the returning Sitaleki Timani in for Dean Mumm.

    Their playmaker Berrick Barnes has a game under his belt and needs to be given the number 10 shirt. A centre pairing of Rob Horne and Adam Ashely-Cooper outside him should be given a try sooner rather than later. I assume that Daniel Halangahu was mainly kept on to rest Barnes’ injured groin from kicking duties; is Foley a kicker who could take over that role?

    If the above changes occur the vacated wing spot would seem most likely to be filled by Brackin Karauria-Henry or Nathan Trist, at least until Atieli Pakalani and Drew Mitchell return.

    On the weekend, my take was that the Waratahs kicked possession away because they had greater faith in their defence than they did in their ability to take the ball into contact and retain it. The whole team collectively need to be better and more committed at the breakdown so that they can use the ball with confidence.

    In particular I’d like to see Sitaleki Timani and Kane Douglas start punishing opponents with their cleanouts. They are both over 120kgs and need to bring some menace into the Waratahs pack, which is missing enforcers in Wycliff Palu and Dan Vickerman. There is no point whining about the missing players; the young guys are big enough and now have to show they can be good enough.

    They won’t be able to do it alone. The whole team – in particular the all-Wallaby front row and international outside backs Horne and Ashley Cooper – needs to take the lead and bring their teammates with them. Yes, that’s right folks; it isn’t just forwards who are expected to hit the breakdown these days. The backs need to lift in that department too.

    The young guys getting opportunities in the absence of others has been encouraging with Jono Jenkins, Dave Dennis, Lopeti Timani, Tom Kingston and Bernard Foley in particular making some strong contributions.

    The Force have underperformed so far this year. If the Waratahs play to their potential they should record a victory, they cannot afford to take the Force lightly though.

    The Sharks will be a tough side. They were desperately unlucky not to win at the Sydney Football Stadium a couple of seasons ago and probably have that memory tucked away somewhere for motivation. The Waratahs will have had two weeks in their beds, while the Sharks will have just made the long flight from South Africa. The Waratahs will have to play well but cannot ask for more of a leg up than that.

    Finally the Chiefs loom. After an initial tight loss to the Highlanders they have claimed the scalps of the Crusaders and Blues, on the back of a much improved forward pack to match their backline which, if anything, is even more dynamic than usual.

    Sona Taumalolo has brought great form home from the World Cup and the addition of 20-year old, 138-kilogram Ben Tameifuna has helped turn their scrum into a weapon. The scrummaging form of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu will meet its sternest test so far this season, as will the defence of whichever centre pairing takes the park.

    All in all these next three weeks will show us the character of the 2012 Waratahs; can they get their season on track?

    Will they do it by fixing their flaws which only get exposed by the top sides? Or will they continue with game plans that work against the weaker teams in the hope that they can scrape into the semis?

    Here is hoping they make some positive changes.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • March 13th 2012 @ 8:29am
      johnny-boy said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Well writtten Jeznez. I would like to see the Tahs gets some just rewards for some good work but as you say they need to sort out their backline pronto and never use Mumm as anything but a 6. Hangers is a good player, sometimes very good but at this level, which Wayne Smith quite rightly pointed out recently is not far off test level intensity, you have to be great. Which is why the Tahs aren’t missing Turner but are missing Mitchell and why Mumm at anything other than 6 is just wasting the Tahs time. They have to find room for that Foley kid too. Good luck Tahs, except when you’re playing the Reds 🙂

    • March 13th 2012 @ 8:38am
      kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      A good article and good to have an article from you Jeznez: I would agree that the backline needs reshuffling according to the lines you suggest. The current set-up is very ineffectual and means the impressive work the pack leads nowhere.

      I’m not sure about Lopeto Timani yet. However, at 200cm I wonder if he is tall enough for a lock? If he and his brother were played alongside Palu and TPN the Waratahs pack would be a formidable beast.

      The Waratahs desperately need a good wing. Maybe they should buy one in given how bad things are.

      It would be interesting if Jared Waerea-Hargeaves does move to the Waratahs to see both Timanis, Palu, TPN and JWH in the same pack.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 2:43pm
        Jiggles said | March 13th 2012 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

        It would be silly of the tah’s or the ARU to sign Jared Waerea-Hargeaves. The bloke considers him self a kiwi and has publicly expressed is discomfort of playing against New Zealand. that is why he picked NZ in RL despite the fact he could’ve been in with a chance of making the QLD SoO team within a few years.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2012 @ 5:04pm
          jeznez said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          KPM, we need to be careful with Lopeti. He is only 19 years old and has a fair bit of physical development to come. He strikes me more as a running forward than one who’ll have his head down doing the clean out work. That is why I am particularly keen to see if Douglas and Sitaleki can lift in that area. Douglas has shown glimmers so far this season of being a guy who will stick his head down and do the non-glamorous stuff. Sitaleki had a few games last year where he just ripped in. Consistent performance in that area will help this Waratahs team immensely.

          Jiggles, I don’t know a huge amount about JWH, just the press-release stuff that he played union in school in Qld, represented Aussie in the 2007 U-19 World Champs and then played club footy in Sydney with the Marlins before switching to league. I doubt JON would entertain the ARU giving him a top up unless he commits to play for the Wallabies.

          I remember reading years ago that there was a gun junior backrower at Manly that looked like switching to League and I can only guess this is the same guy. The stories I read back then said that he was switching in order to accelerate his professional development and would be open to returning to Union. If this is the same guy it could be interesting.

          Your reference to comments that he wouldn’t want to play against NZ might stop this in its tracks.

          • Roar Guru

            March 13th 2012 @ 5:22pm
            Jiggles said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

            Jeznez, There was a daily telegraph article about him where he is quoted as saying that when he faced the Junior All Blacks at that World Champs he didn’t feel comfortable facing the Haka, and he felt as if he should be in that NZ team doing the Haka facing the Australians. The bloke considers himself a Maori and a Kiwi and he is clearly patriotic. Thats perfectly ok by me, but if he expects to make it in Rugby he shouldn’t expect to be picked up by an Australian team taking up resources that could be spent on a guy who truly wants to be a Wallaby. If he considers himself a New Zealander, he should go over to the NPC and prove himself there.

            But considering the daft decisions that the ARU and the Tah’s make, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did pick him up.

            • Roar Guru

              March 13th 2012 @ 5:49pm
              jeznez said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

              He certainly reads as a proud Kiwi, given the Tahs marquee spot is taken then it may just be media talk.

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2012 @ 6:08pm
                Jiggles said | March 13th 2012 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

                I think it is, However he is eligible to play for Australia which makes be uncomfortable. Personally I think he will stay in League. The ARU surely wouldn’t agree to him signing (as his heart clearly isn’t there for Australia) so they only way he’d make it is through the NPC as I doubt any of their franchises would pick him up. This will mean a big pay cut which his manager wouldn’t be to happy about.

              • March 14th 2012 @ 6:04am
                kingplaymaker said | March 14th 2012 @ 6:04am | ! Report

                Well it’s early days for JWH’s conversion at the moment and these days often these signings don’t come off.

                Timani junior could be what the Wallabies have been looking for, but it’s early days for him too.

    • March 13th 2012 @ 8:56am
      mania said | March 13th 2012 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      i’m guessing but negative

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 5:05pm
        jeznez said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

        I’m a Waratahs man, I have to stay glass half full!

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:18am
      kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      mania guessing what?

      • March 13th 2012 @ 9:20am
        mania said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        question = “Will the Waratahs make positive or negative changes?”
        my answer = negative

    • March 13th 2012 @ 9:23am
      kingplaymaker said | March 13th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      I see, could be a good guess unfortunately!

    • March 13th 2012 @ 10:21am
      Bigbaz said | March 13th 2012 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      Doesn’t matter were they put Barnes he will kick away possession.It is his default position.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2012 @ 5:21pm
        jeznez said | March 13th 2012 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

        Last year with the slow forward play Barnes would look outside him at the set defensive line, would remember the field day that Brussow had against us for the Cheetahs and kick rather than risk a turn over.

        In the weekend’s game the Waratahs continually gave the ball away at the breakdown. I’m not certain if I am reading the rugbyheaven match stats correctly but I think they indicate the Tahs took the ball into 57 rucks/mauls and turned the ball over 21 times.

        I think if they fix that breakdown then Barnes should have confidence to run the ball.

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