Tahs set to gamble on new-look midfield

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs’ backline might be in for a shakeup this week, with head coach Daryl Gibson saying combinations are "up for review".

Gibson tweaked his backline combinations late in a 37-14 loss to the Sharks and said on Sunday that they were yet to settle on an ideal setup.

Israel Folau had his best game of the season, finishing with two tries and 112 run metres, playing at outside centre but with regular fullback Andrew Kellaway suffering a shoulder complaint, changes could be rung across the backline.
“Last night, Israel had a goal to really get himself into the game and I think he handled the ball the most for a long time,” Gibson said.

“We’re still looking at exactly what our best combinations are at times. At the moment, everything’s up for review.”

It is the inside backs that might be most under the microscope, after Rob Horne was shifted into inside centre in the back end of Sunday morning’s match, with David Horwitz at No.10.

While he stopped short of confirming any change, Horne has played in both the 12 and 13 spots for the Waratahs in recent times and Gibson said he was glad to have that flexbility in his arsenal.

“Rob played for us at 12 in 2013, played very well,” Gibson added.

“It was more a tactical change (against the Sharks), I just felt we needed a little bit more go forward through the middle and obviously Rob provided that.

“What we do have is excellent flexibility in that regard, a number of guys able to play various positions. 

“We’ll have a look, see whether we got that right, got the right people in the right spots.”

The Waratahs are expecting to welcome back key forwards Jed Holloway (hamstring), Will Skelton (hamstring) and Ned Hanigan (hamstring) for their clash with the Brumbies, though flyhalf Bernard Foley is still a "day-by-day case", Gibson said.

After Horwitz’s move to chief playmaker in Durban, Gibson named him along with rookies Andrew Deegan and Mack Mason as players who could fill the role, instead of Bryce Hegarty, if Foley remains unavailable.


Outside of his own team review, Gibson said he was just as much in the dark when it came to the results of  SANZAAR’s Super Rugby review as anyone else.

National unions are set to speak with key stakeholders, namely broadcasters, this week before a decision on a Super Rugby change can be ratified.

Gibson said he had a simple preference for any change in the competition - one where each team sees each other at least once.

The current four conference system is structured such that each of the two South African conferences only plays against one of the Australian and New Zealand conferences each year.

“A competition where every team plays every team seems to be the format that has worked in the past,” he said.

“How that looks it’s up to them (SANZAAR). Certainly, a competition structure that’s based on that would be a good one.”

The Waratahs take on the Brumbies this Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT at Allianz Stadium, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.