Will Genia rediscovering authority
March 31, 2014
Will Genia seems to be rediscovering his very best form © Getty Images
Queensland Reds regained winning form back on home soil (video available only in Australia)%]
While the Waratahs without Israel Folau degenerated into a rabble, at least Australian rugby can be grateful its most important combination is getting its act together.
Queensland Reds may have left South Africa last week irritable, without any victories, and stung by an appalling refereeing performance in Johannesburg. Yet their fortnight in the Republic wasn't wasted, as it saw a revival in the fortunes of their Test scrum-half Will Genia.
Genia had been off his game for some time. A player once adjudged the best scrum-half in world rugby had been suffering the yips. He wasn't as authoritative, was too keen on the kick option, seemed to be over-reacting to pressure - to the extent that last season he lost his Wallabies starting spot. He even looked rattled. But in South Africa, against the Sharks and the Lions, the old Genia began to reappear. His game was again poised. He was attacking the gain line. He was mixing up his options intelligently. His passing was slick, not slack. He wasn't relentlessly box kicking everything down the throat of an opponent.
The Reds-Stormers match in Brisbane on Saturday night was a meandering, flat affair, but Genia provided the right direction. Along with frenetic back-rower Beau Robinson, Genia got the Reds home. Admittedly, Genia is not yet back to his best, but he is playing decidedly better than in previous months as shown by his Greg Growden medal votes in three consecutive weeks against South African opposition.
It also helps if the man standing beside him in the attacking line is on song, and Quade Cooper has been the standout player in the Australian conference this season. Sure, he is making the characteristic occasional mistake; but to Cooper's credit, he is always trying something … and many times he is getting away with it.
If Australian rugby is to have any hope of doing something positive this season, we must have Genia and Cooper back at their working best. And thankfully over the past month they have again looked threatening. Ewen McKenzie will be delighted.
Not so delightful was how the Waratahs again showed, against the Sharks, that they are short in the intelligence department. We asked serious questions about the Waratahs' when they suffered white line fever in the final minutes against the Brumbies in Canberra two weeks back, wasting countless good opportunities to win the match. Testosterone rather than tactics was the prime motivation, and the Waratahs suffered an unnecessary loss.
Tempers flared as the Waratahs lost their way and their composure in Durban © Getty Images
Highlights: The Sharks overpowered the Waratahs in Durban (video available only in Australia)%]
In Durban, it was again shown that the Waratahs in tense moments lack those who think straight and do not get overwhelmed by the moment. The Waratahs tried the "He-Man" approach in Durban, and it backfired badly as the Sharks bit, reacted and then delivered them a crucial lesson - overwhelming them in every area.
The Waratahs can whinge as much as they like, but they created the problem when their winger Rob Horne made an unnecessary high swinging-arm tackle on Francois Steyn in the 16th minute. The fact that Horne was allowed to stay on the field defies belief. The television commentators were right: it was a "cheap shot". Not surprisingly the SANZAR citing commissioner saw it, and Horne now fronts the judiciary.
All this incident did was fire up the Sharks. There were get-squares, endless scuffles, slanging matches, and eventually Waratahs captain Dave Dennis was sent to the sin-bin when he shoved his counterpart, Bismarck du Plessis.
The Waratahs' replacement skipper, Michael Hooper, tried to get his often distracted troops in order a minute later when more scuffles broke out following a Sharks try. "All you @#$% off," Hooper yelled at his teammates. It didn't work.
Then the Waratahs' pack fell apart.
Replacement prop Paddy Ryan couldn't hold up the scrum, and they were penalized constantly. Fair enough, too.
This was the Waratahs at their worst. So it wouldn't be a shock if every member of the touring party headed straight to Johannesburg airport to greet the arrival of Folau, who missed the Durban match due to a throat complaint.
Without Folau, the Waratahs aren't much. They lack game breakers. They lack thinkers. With Folau, hopefully they will start using their grey matter.
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