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Bernard Foley thriving on the Waratah captaincy

Bernard Foley of the Waratahs. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Expert
7th July, 2018
72

Since Bernard Foley took over the captaincy from the injured Michael Hooper, the Waratahs are looking like a genuine Super Rugby premiership threat.

Last week was a come-from-behind 31-26 win over closest rivals Rebels, and last night a barnstorming 77-25 success over the Sunwolves to clinch the Australian Conference and an automatic qualification into the playoffs.

The 77 points broke the Waratahs’ previous best of 73 against the Kings in 2010 and the 12 tries last night was another record, while the runaway train Taqele Naiyaravoro’s two tries took him to 14 for the season to break Israel Folau’s record of 12.

The knockers will say the Sunwolves were down to 14 men for just over half the game when winger Semesi Masirewa was red carded for dumping Foley head first into the turf, and Fumiaki Tanaka was lucky late in the game to cop a yellow instead of a red for doing likewise to Waratah halfback Jake Gordon.

But the Waratahs could only play what was in front of them, and they have been very impressive.

In the two games Foley has led by example, the Waratahs have scored 108 points to 51, crossing for 16 tries to five.

And it will be tries that will keep the Waratahs in Super Rugby contention.

This team isn’t as big up front as they were in 2014 when they won their only Super Rugby title.

They had locks Will Skelton and Dean Mumm, with a back row of Jacques Potgieter, Wycliff Palu and Dave Dennis.

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And the current backline is a better attacking unit, and certainly faster, than the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Rob Horne of four years ago,

Waratah fans will get a better slant on how their troops are faring when they take on the Brumbies in the last of the regulation rounds.

This will be the first time since 2011 that the Brumbies have missed the playoffs as the most consistent of the Australian franchises over the last seven years.

So they will have something to prove next weekend which will give the Waratahs the perfect warm-up for the tough campaign ahead.

And it will feature the head-to-head clash of two of the most exciting fullbacks in the tournament – Israel Folau and Tom Banks.

Israel Folau

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Folau is the super-star with his supremacy in the aerial battles, his safe hands, deception in full flight, his speed, and try-scoring prowess – another two last night.

But the 24-year-old Banks might just have Folau covered for sheer speed.

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We’ll see next weekend if Banks has some room to move. He’s a very exciting prospect who must be included in the Wallaby Bledisloe Cup-Rugby Championship squad.

But first things first, there’s a Super Rugby title to be won, and under Bernard Foley’s leadership, the Waratahs have put their hands up to be counted.