Waratahs eyeing 2014 Super Rugby title
July 14, 2013
Cam Crawford capped his successful season with a try against the Reds © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs have already set their sights on landing an elusive first Super Rugby title in 2014 after missing the play-offs for the second successive season.
Their 14-12 home loss to Queensland Reds in the Bob Templeton Cup match at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night left the Waratahs ninth on the Super Rugby ladder with eight wins and eight defeats, two rungs higher than in 2012 having produced twice the amount of wins and led the competition for linebreaks after embracing first-year coach Michael Cheika's ball-in-hand style of play.
The Waratahs' tally of one goal from five attempts against the Reds, from Brendan McKibbin and Berrick Barnes, who missed a match-winning chance in the dying minutes, provided a snapshot of the Waratahs' season of near-misses. One-point losses to the Cheetahs and Crusaders, and two-point defeats by Western Force and Reds, ultimately proved the difference between making the finals and missing out.
"There were games this year we should have won, as simple as that," Dave Dennis said. "We finished with eight wins, a few more than last year, but we still missed out on the finals. So to look at it that way, it's disappointing. But as captain of the team, I've been really proud of the effort that's everyone's put in - all the players, all the staff - and we've got a clear direction about where we want to go. We've laid a base for next season. When we gather later in the year, or whenever that may be, there's a clear understanding of what's expected of each player and how we want to play rugby. So that's positive and we've made great strides in that regard. We've just got to get better at winning matches."
Several players, including Wallabies Barnes and Sitaleki Timani, have played their final match for the Waratahs, but Kurtley Beale looks set to return in 2014 and Dennis said elder statesmen such as Test regulars Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu and Wycliff Palu were intent on winning a maiden Super Rugby title. "They don't want to leave after a 12-year career at the Waratahs without having won a title. That's very important to them. They care about that. Then the new guys, they're sort of jumping on that wave as well. Playing professional footy, you always want to be playing in the finals."
Cheika said: "This might be the end, but it's really just the start. We've got a good launching pad into next season for sure. I believe that we have gone well towards achieving the start of the turnaround that we've been after. We will definitely have bigger ambitions ... I want to make the finals next year. Of course I do. I'm not a loser. I feel we've built a nice little fortress that we can maybe start fighting a few wars from."
With Beale's ill-fated two-season stint with the Rebels over, Cheika hopes to announce the 24-year-old's return to the Waratahs this week. "We want him," Cheika said. The Waratahs are also optimistic about retaining dual international Israel Folau, who proved the revelation of the competition in his first season in rugby.
Queensland Reds scrambled a victory over New South Wales Waratahs (video available only in Australia)
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