Waratahs 'can be title contenders'
February 15, 2013
Micheal Cheika has the Waratahs playing a different game to that of the 2012 side. © Getty Images
NSW Waratahs will be serious contenders for the Super Rugby championship, Kieran Reid said after the Crusaders won the teams' pre-season trial in Sydney on Thursday.
The Waratahs open their Super Rugby campaign against Queensland Reds on Saturday week, and they should go to Brisbane confident despite losing 16-14 to the Crusaders at Allianz Stadium in their final trial.
The home side rejected nine kickable penalties as coach Michael Cheika's team stuck with their policy in the trials of not taking three-pointers.
And the Waratahs' attacking intent was enough to bring hope to NSW diehards that a big - and exciting - 2013 is ahead of them.
"Obviously they looked after the ball really well and have some attacking players out wide," Crusaders captain Reid said.
"I don't think they stressed us as much perhaps as they could have, but certainly they've got a lot of structure there which is going to make them a pretty serious threat in the competition."
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder noted some of the differences in the way the Cheika- coached Waratahs play compared with the 2012 vintage.
"I can see what they are trying to do in the middle of the field in some of their set plays off rucks and things like that," he said.
"They're looking to hit the midfield with some inside passes to re-stress the inside defenders. They are playing slightly different patterns definitely."
The Waratahs scored two tries to one, the Crusaders getting home on the back of penalty goals.
Cheika's side looked rusty in the opening 40 minutes, and went to the break trailing 13-0. But they fought back with converted tries from forwards Lopeti Timani and Paddy Ryan, both five-pointers scored off the back of a patient build-up.
Cheika praised rookie five-eighth Ben Volavola for his performance, saying "he might have to be" ready to face Queensland because Berrick Barnes (knee) and Bernard Foley (ankle) were each rated only a 50-50 chance of being fit.
The Waratahs coach said that Volavola, who played most of his club rugby with Southern Districts at fullback last year, was still adjusting to being a playmaker.
"We're converting him into that role," he said. The regularity of his distribution needs to improve but we knew that before ... I don't know what the numbers are like but he's probably making triple the passes that he'd normally make in a game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra