Waratahs can't afford to pay penalty price in Dunedin

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs know they can’t afford to let ill-discipline get in their way, as they look to prove they’ve learned from the past against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Despite laying on a big first-half score against the Rebels on Sunday, eight successive penalties in the opening 20 minutes had them on the ropes in the Australian derby.

Had it not been for Ben Volavola’s wayward kicking, the Waratahs may have been facing a starkly different situation this week, assistant coach Chris Malone said, and they won't be able to work their way back from another poor start in Dunedin.

“We can't afford to give eight penalties away in the first 20 minutes again,” he said.

>“I think two games before that we had three penalties in the how game, so we know that we're capable of good discipline and as you can see we need it if we don't want to be behind the eight ball from the off.” 

With flyhalf Marty Banks one of the most potent kickers in Super Rugby this season, centre David Horwitz said they would be wary of the punishment the Kiwis will dole out for any penalties.

“Marty Banks been kicking at over 90 per cent this year so he'll definitely take advantage of those and also with Aaron Smith there looking to quick tap and catch us off guard this week, the penalties this week are non-negotiable,” he said.

“Our start this week was better in not conceding a whole bunch of points and being 20-30 points down at half-time but still that first 20 minutes we were just too over-eager and crossed that line too much.”

The Waratahs have employed more full-team drills in training in recent weeks to correct their slow starts, in anticipation for a team that will start ‘hard and fast’.

The Waratahs’ attack looked the best it had this season but defensive concerns continue to linger and Horwitz said they needed to take heed of their deficiencies, despite coming away with a dominant win.

“We learned a lot of good lessons and it's cheap lessons because it didn't cost us the game but it has in the past in the season and it probably will in New Zealand so we have to learn pretty quickly from those,” he said.

The Waratahs have fallen just short of the Highlanders in both of their recent matchups - a 30-26 and struggled to defend against the Kiwis’ penetrative kicks, a trademark of their game.

Horwitz said improving that was an element that they were focusing on ahead of Saturday night’s match 

“(It’s) probably the ownership from the back field, the wingers and the fullbacks being earlier into those spaces so they take away those kick opportunities,” he said.

“It's just role clarity, it's all within our system and it's just being right on top of it so everyone does their job because in our system hopefully everyone gets covered.”

Horwitz said he and the other young Waratahs needed to step up to support their big-name players, after Michael Hooper, Israel Folau and Bernard Foley led the way against Melbourne.

The Waratahs take on the Highlanders on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.