Waratahs with point to prove against Rebels

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper says the team’s tight five has a point to prove against the Rebels this weekend.

The lineout was a major concern for the Waratahs, with the side conceding four in the second half of their 28-12 loss to the Brumbies, and Hooper said that was a key focus against the Rebels, who showed promise against the Chiefs.

“With set piece, it’s us training against us to get each other better during the week,” he said.

“We’ve probably been lacking a bit of that and the tight five particularly are really wanting to prove a point on Friday night.”

Hooper has spoken repeatedly about the gulf between the Waratahs’ training and their game day performances and said they needed to be able to absorb pressure better.

“(We need the) belief that we can do it and also being able to withstand what teams are going to throw at us,” he said.

The Waratahs and Brumbies will face off on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images“They’ve obviously come up with a plan to take on us, we’ve got to be able to ride those and really believe in our game to get one over the opposition.

"We’re both desperate teams at the moment for a win to get our seasons really rolling."

The Rebels’ super-sized lineup will be a threat for the Waratahs, with Lopeti Timani coming back to the side off the bench, and it’s a danger of which Hooper is well aware.

“They’ve got size across the whole team,” he said.

“The outside backs are strong ball carriers, Hodgey [Reece Hodge] in the middle there.

“They’re really strong across the field and we’ve got to get those guys on the ground so we can build our game and also shut them out of it.”

Hooper also backed Nick Phipps to rebound after being shifted to the bench, replaced by emerging nine Jake Gordon.

“Nick jumps at most things with a lot of enthusiasm and energy,” he said.

“So, change for Nick’s going to be tough, no one likes to be in that position and then getting to Jake and helping him with what he needs to do on the weekend.

“I can only imagine it’s going to make ‘Fang’ so hungry to get back and want to be running on the field.”

The Waratahs take on the Rebels on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio at RUGBY.com.au.