Waratahs looking to 'dictate terms' - Polota-Nau
January 24, 2014
Tatafu Polota-Nau had to defy his family wishes to take up rugby union
New South Wales are poised to make a strong bid for the Super Rugby title in 2014, with Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau saying they have been working hard to develop a defensive structure to "dictate terms" to their opponents.
The Waratahs enjoyed a better season in 2013, after several years of disappointing results, primarily because they honed their attack to score 45 tries through the campaign - a tally bettered only by the title-winning Chiefs. Equally, they missed the finals because they conceded 371 points - a record better only than that of defensive turnstile teams Melbourne Rebels, the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Southern Kings.
"Absolutely we want to maintain that attacking record because obviously the weapons we have in the backline there is no reason we should shy away from that," Polota-Nau told ESPNscrum. "But most importantly in defence, we let ourselves down in terms of letting the opposition dictate our defence opposed to letting our defence dictate them.
"Coming back from the break, it's been great to see the guys work hard in that regard … we've definitely understood just the protocols in order to be the No.1 defensive team this season."
Polota-Nau said the Tahs returned to training ready to go after their brief Christmas break, and Michael Cheika had been pushing them had to get the side fit and ready for February. The hooker said Cheika was oftentimes vocal at training because he was a perfectionist, but the quieter the coach the better for the players.
"We know what 'Cheik' is all about," Polota-Nau told ESPNscrum. "What he's trying to do is get the best out of all of us, so we will know [he's getting the best] if he doesn't talk as much; the more he talks, the more he's worried about just the passion of the team as opposed to the technical side.
"The experience the man's got is second to none. Everyone's understood what he's gone through from here overseas, winning premierships with Leinster, coming back here, obviously he's really passionate about restoring pride here in the sky-blue jersey, so that's up to us now to show that passion from him onto the field."
Tatafu Polota-Nau spoke exclusively with ESPNscrum © Scrum.com
The players have changed their tune under Cheika, after struggling to perform under former coach Michael Foley, and Polota-Nau agreed they had accepted the much-needed cultural change, taking pride in the jersey and pushing each other to earn a place on the field.
"Definitely, throughout my playing career you go through guys and seniority and stuff but gone are the days. Now even the young guys are starting to push the older guys because it's all about to get that spot to play for the weekend as opposed to letting the seniors come in teach the young guns a few new tricks; but at the end of the day it's all about working hard to get that starting jersey.
"What we have to offer most importantly as a team is that collective agreement that no matter who starts or finishes that we're out there and doing the one job, and that is clarity, with purpose and trying to get the win."
Polota-Nau, meanwhile, said that he had made a change to his own game, after injuring himself again last season through his kamikaze tackling style. He said he had been working on his movements to reduce the chances of injuries, but would continue to be a hard hitter at the front.
"Most importantly trying to hit from the chest to the hips, but at the same time it sort of depends on the situation. I'm fortunate to have done a lot of work with Nathan Grey in terms of keeping my feet nice and close in order to stop me diving at their knees but [to aim] at their torso in order to make the tackle.
Polota-Nau said he was looking forward to this season "because going from last year, the processes that we built in order to get where we are now is by far beyond any other standard that I've been with in the Waratahs".
"Looking beyond, I can't talk too much about it. But in a few weeks' time, I can't wait for the first trial because I have no doubt that the guys' effort will be there for sure; we just need to get the technical stats up."
It's not hard to see why Tatafu Polota-Nau is such a firm fans' favourite © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." Tom Hamilton talks to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column