Tom Robertson has stepped up to every Super Rugby challenge handed to him this season but it’s far away from the field where he gets his edge.
Robertson, who starred again in his first Super Rugby start last weekend, devours game vision during the week, breaking down each opponent’s scrums.
It’s not so much a surprise that Robertson is a studious rugby player - he studies medicine full-time outside of Super Rugby - creating his own homework each week.
“I’ll make my own clips, cut my own clips about what their opposition scrum does and about what the loosey tends to do when he's under pressure and when he’s going well what he does and how I try to combat that,” he said.
“Then I‘ll give it to coaches and they’ll give feedback.”
It’s that attention to analysis, of both opposition and his own side, that gives Robertson a sense of comfort on the field that he can make an impact against more seasoned opponents.
“I always make sure if there's a call or a play that is called by (Waratahs flyhalf) Bernard or (halfback) Nick Phipps I’ll always know what’s going on,” he said.
“I think that has really helped me and I do my homework on the opposition scrum and on their lineout and all that stuff.
“I’m really across the detail, that’s where I get that edge from that most of the other players don’t because they don't do that stuff before a game.”
“If I’m across the detail it gives me confidence and I can win when I’m confident in my ability.
“It’s if you’re hesitant and you don’t know what you're doing that’s when you stuff things up.”
As he continues to entrench himself as a Super Rugby player, he’s able to focus more on himself and less on what is going on around him, a luxury of a professional side that isn’t so common on suburban fields.
“At club rugby you go in one-on-one because you're worried some bloke’s not going to make a tackle or there’s miscommunication,” he said.
“Here you’re in the line, you go up together and you can trust the guy inside you to do his job.
“I think that’s the one thing about professional rugby is that it’s their livelihood to do what they’re meant to do as set by the coaching staff.
“I think that's a big step up in terms of not covering other people, just doing what your role is.
Robertson’s form in training and games has forced Angus Ta'avao out of the tighthead spot and he might be the only front row starter retained for the Waratahs trip to Perth.
Benn Robinson is set to miss the match after a thumb to the eye against the Brumbies but first-choice hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is likely to return from a wrist injury for the match.
Utility back Rob Horne is a strong chance of lining up against the Force, though after Daryl Gibson iterated his commitment to keepign Israel Folau at outside centre, Horne could play on the wing.
Backs coach Chris Malone said there would be a few selection debates for the Perth game.
"It's really unfortunate - Cat (Robinson) just can’t take a trick at the moment.I really don't know about that (his return). Roachy (Hugh Roach) played really well on the weekend, Taf's coming back from injury. Tommy Robertson did a really good job for a young tighthead in his run on debut," he said.
"I’ve always said the reality around putting a guy like (Rob) Horney - the beauty of him is he can play pretty much anywhere from 12 out.
"We've got that luxury again as and when horney’s ready to go.Like Taffy he trained last week, so it's jut up to the medics."
The Waratahs take on the Force on Friday night, kicking off at 7:40pm AEST.