Lions vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs are 0-1 in South Africa after a loss to the Lions on Sunday.

Here's what we learned from the try-fest in Johannesburg.

1. A week is a long time

In round one, the Waratahs survived on grit and defence. There was little of either against the Lions with both sides leaking tries early. By the 24th minute, the Lions had notched four, the latest straight off a Waratahs error. A nagging issue for the Tahs was the Lions’ rolling maul, which led to three of those opening tries but a defensive lapse also gave rise to an Elton Jantjies drop goal. The visitors missed 29 tackles, according to the stats from Opta, a marker that will not please defence coach Nathan Grey.

2. Tolu Latu turnover king

Midway through last year, Tolu Latu was battling for a spot in the Waratahs' matchday 23. Well he probably doesn’t need to worry about selection for a while now. Latu is in career-best form and has become one of the Waratahs’ strongest defensive performers. He leads the Waratahs in turnovers so far this season, stealing another three in Johannesburg on top of the three he grabbed in round one. With no specialist pilferer in the openside spot, Latu’s skills are critical for the Waratahs and do his starting chances no harm at all.

3 Tahs' depth being tested

The Lions ran away with a win in the end. Photo: Getty ImagesJust last week, it seemed the Waratahs had one of the deepest rosters in the Australian Super Rugby conference, but already that is being spread very thin. Bernard Foley’s concussion and two more injuries this week left the Waratahs undermanned, with Nick Phipps and Will Skelton late scratchings in South Africa. No.8 Jed Holloway and lock Ned Hanigan weren’t even on the plane last weekend, still at least a fortnight away.

4. Lions the South African benchmark

None of the Aussie teams played the Lions in 2016, as they made their run to a Super Rugby final, and it seems they’re going to be a threat yet again. Their turbo-speed attacking play helped them to eight tries against the Waratahs, in what would have been an ominous warning for any of the other Aussie teams watching. Playing in Johannesburg is not going to be an easy this year, that is for sure.

5. Kellaway clearly more comfortable

He’s long been earmarked as a future Wallaby and Waratahs fullback Andrew  Kellaway looks right at home in Super Rugby now.  The 21-year-old set up Rob Horne for the Tahs first try of the game and bookended it, setting up Israel Folau for the last. Was a threat in attack, leading the run metres for his side and beating a handful of defenders along the way. Don’t be surprised if we see him in a Wallabies jersey in 2017.