Waratahs backing rookies to turn scrum around

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs scrum was pushed around by the Stormers on Saturday night, but coach Daryl Gibson is backing his rookies to improve on a brutal South Africa-Argentina tour.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck openly admitted they targeted the Waratahs scrum in Sydney on Saturday night, and to the most part they did that with ease, until a last-minute tighthead against the visitors.

“We felt that they were vulnerable there and it showed,” Fleck said.

“We were the dominant scrum, surprised that we turned that ball over at the end there.

“We were going forward, I don't know how it came out in his side but it was clear we were the dominant scrum throughout the match and felt that we could've got a little bit more reward there.

“That was something we certainly targeted - we felt they weren't good enough there, at the set piece and the scrum.”

They were scrummaging without Wallabies and Waratahs veteran Sekope Kepu, by far their most experienced front rower, who is suspended for the first two rounds of Super Rugby.

Despite the fact Kepu would be available for the Waratahs’ match against the Jaguares, Gibson said they were opting to leave him in Australia to work on his fitness, putting the rest of the pack into the spotlight.

“Keps is due for the Jaguares game,” he said.

“We made a decision we're going to leave him behind, let him work on his fitness. We believe he's still not going to be physically able to really be effective.

“We'd prefer to leave him at home, so he's ready for that Rebels game.

"We know we had our troubles tonight, but we're going to back the guys who are in there and look at the drawing board and look how we can compete."

ISekope Kepu will play his 100th Waratahs game on Saturday. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsleyt’s a big gamble from the Waratahs as they face two of the toughest scrummaging assignments in Super Rugby, but captain Michael Hooper said he felt they had the personnel to turn things around.

“We've got the cattle for sure,” he said.

“We've got the guys who can back it up and do it and I've seen that at training.

“The Stormers are so strong, they're squatting us, a couple of those guys are so big in that front row.

“We got a bit of false security there getting forward a bit and they're go back and bring it forward and caught us off guard a bit there, so it's a good little roll in for what we’ll probably see next week.”

Halfback Nick Phipps will also sit out the South Africa-Argentina tour, still recovering from a calf injury, targeting their match against the Rebels on March 18 for a comeback.

The Waratahs’ matchday 23 from Saturday night will travel to Africa on Sunday morning, along with hooker Tolu Latu, flanker Will Miller, winger Taqele Naiyaravoro and new addition, Fijian Drua prop Kalivati Tawake.

The Waratahs take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday March 3, kicking off at 3:05pm local, Sunday 12:05am AEDT.