Waratahs need all guns blazing for New Zealand tour

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Hooper, Foley and Folau.

If you want the Waratahs to be ‘humming’, these are the names that need to be sounding the same tune, and that is what happened on Sunday afternoon - for probably the first time in 2017.

Michael Hooper was the first - stopping the rot of sloppy discipline from his forward pack and trying to turn the momentum, before creating his own attacking spark on his way to 156 run metres, 10 tackles, three turnovers and a try.

Israel Folau had a double and looked happier on a rugby field than he has in recent memory and Bernard Foley had a hand in just about every promising attacking chain they had.

Israel Folau had a double in Sydney. Photo: Getty ImagesWaratahs coach Daryl Gibson said that trio and mammoth lock Will Skelton, who has found some of his most intimidating form in recent weeks, needed to be up and running now

“You need your big players to step up the next few weeks, some huge games for us,” he said..

“I thought Will Skelton was excellent again tonight, he really threw himself around for 50 minutes.

“There's some really positive signs there going forward.

“We really stripped our game right back to quite a basic game and I thought off the back of that good things started to happen.

“I think that's a blueprint for us in terms of keeping things simple, having a nice base layer of attack.”

Rebels coach Tony McGahan most likely put it best, when describing the impact of the trio and their influence on their teammates particularly.

The Waratahs battled against the Blues. Photo: Getty ImagesIt would not be lost on the Waratahs that with these three going well, young centre David Horwitz also had his best game of the season, and possibly his career.

“When you've got three key players and they have such influence, not only on the game itself but (on) their other teammates about what they can do,” McGahan said.

“I thought they were fantastic tonight and I thought they really brought the rest of the group through with a lot of key moments, there.”

Hooper played down his own role in shifting the early momentum, but said this side was done with any individual trying to take the game on themselves.

“When I'm trying to, personally - this is me, this is Bernard - (when) they're trying to overplay their hand, that's where we actually play worse and or not as well as we could and not play our A-game,” he said.

“For us and when we're really humming it's when every player's doing their role within the team and that showed tonight.”

The Waratahs still missed 40 tackles against the Rebels, a statistic they simply have to improve on when they face Highlanders across the ditch next week, but they will face it armed with the boost of belief that when they stick at their fearless attack, it can work.

It’s a six-day turnaround for the Waratahs, but given their sluggish starts off long run-ins this season, Hooper said it could be a blessing in disguise, as they try to string together consecutive wins.

“For us, and if we're serious about this season, we've gone one win and a loss and haven't been able to turn momentum into a genuine thing," he said.

“So, short turnaround is actually a good thing for us, the fact it's straight back on to task, we're in tomorrow, Tuesday Wednesday training and then get straight over there.”

The Waratahs will spend a fortnight in New Zealand before the June break, with the Highlanders and the Chiefs awaiting them.