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Who will stop the Tahs?

Written by Willem Jordaan (Rooiwillie)

Posted in :Original Content, Super Rugby on 27 Feb 2011 at 18:33
Tagged with : , , ,

It is the end of week two’s matches of the new Super 15 competition and a look at the overall table sees the Waratahs sitting pretty on 10 log points. This after two comprehensive bonus point victories over the Rebels and Reds, the last of which was tipped to be their strongest competition in their conference. I have a strong feeling that at the top of the log is where the Waratahs will remain for the rest of this season.

The Australian has widely been earmarked as the weakest conference in the Super 15 competition. In addition to this there is in my opinion the biggest imbalance in this conference with the Waratahs standing head and shoulders above the other Australian teams this year. The new format entails that the Waratahs will play half of their matches against their countrymen in the regular season, who they should not really have too many problems with I suspect. Yes, I think the Waratahs will win 7-8 of the 8 matches against local opposition and will pick up a fair few bonus points in the process.

Let us have a look at the other teams in the Australian conference to support my case. The Rebels are the new kids on the block and the Waratahs have already beaten them with a bonus point away from home and should do so again when they play at home. The Force ended second to last in 2010. It must be said that their season was plagued with injuries but that just highlights their lack in depth. They have also lost a key attacking player in Ryan Cross to the Waratahs. The Brumbies just do not pose the same threat this year as they have in the past. This was evident in their recent loss to the Rebels, a team the Waratahs thrashed 43-0 a week before. The Reds had a much improved season last year and have generated considerable hype and expectation. One good season does not make a truly great team though and they were outclassed by the Waratahs over the weekend. I ask myself the question whether the Sharks, Bulls or Stormers would beat one other so comprehensively with four tries to none in our (South African) conference…

Let’s have a look at the games the Waratahs will play against teams of the foreign conferences: The Waratahs do not play the Stormers and the Hurricanes in the regular season this year. Two strong teams to elude, with the aforementioned being the team who knocked them out of the competition last year – that game was played in Cape Town though. They have home games against the Cheetahs, Chiefs, Lions and Highlanders. They should be too strong for these teams, especially at home, and will in all probability pick up four wins here with a few bonus points to boot. The away games against the Crusaders, Blues, Sharks and Bulls will be their biggest challenge. It is absolutely vital that these four teams make sure they beat the Waratahs and give away no bonus points if there is any chance of a different team leading the log come the playoffs. I fear though that even this might not be enough.

Besides the fact that the Tahs have a reasonably easy ride to the top of the log compared to the teams in South Africa and New Zealand they actually have a very strong squad full of experience. They are a quality outfit and have been in the top five on the log for the past three seasons. They are a real physical outfit and have outmuscled many a team in the past; I do not have to remind Sharks fans of this. They have good depth, solid defence and a potent attack. Their style of play it would seem has also changed – the rugby they dished up over the last two weekends is far from boring, a term many have used to describe their play in the past.

As stated in the opening paragraph I predict the Waratahs to be at the top of the log at the end of the regular season. With the additional playoff matches before the semis it will be extremely difficult to beat the top two teams in the semis. I feel then that the team placed second overall come the playoffs will have the best chance to beat the Waratahs in the final. They will have to do so in Sydney though and with exciting players like Drew Mitchell and Kurtley Beale (my has this guy’s rugby improved) and the most capped Waratah of all time, Phil Waugh, at the realm few could argue that this will be a very difficult prospect.


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