Latu set for first 2018 start in Super Rugby semis

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Months of early-morning throwing sessions and a renewed commitment to rugby have paid off for Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu.

Latu is set for his first 2018 start when the Waratahs face the Lions in their Super Rugby semi-final, displacing Damien Fitzpatrick.

The 25-year-old has come off the bench in the eight game he's played this season and a star turn against the Highlanders was his strongest push yet for elevation.

It's a far cry from Latu's position at the start of the year, out of favour at the Waratahs as criticism of a poor work ethic grew.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said one frank conversation flicked a switch in Latu, helped along by a selfless move from captain Michael Hooper.

I said to him (Latu), one of my greatest pleasures of life would be arriving at training at 7 in the morning and walking into training and seeing him there working away at his skill," he told reporters from Johannesburg.

"And then he started doing it, every morning.

"I had coffee, around the corner, here was Tolu Latu throwing balls to Michael Hooper.

"That showed me straight away that he's committed to his practice of wanting to be better. It was a good sign. It's taken two or three months to really earn his way into the team but that's (been) really hard work, so it's a reward for him."

The Wallabies rake's strength over the ball and in scrums will be pivotal against a big-bodied Lions team on their home turf, Gibson said.

"We see Tolu as a bigger body. he's got some real strengths around the breakdown and scrum and we see that as probably the battle ground for us this weekend," he said.

"We know the lions are vey strong, very strong scrum, excellent from lineout attack, so we've got to excel to be able to compete."

Latu's challenge will be a tough one, to say the least, up against 'Pocock-esque' Lions hooker Malcolm Marx.

Marx has been a machine at the breakdown this season and Gibson said they were well aware of his threats.

"I think he's Pocock-esque," he said.

"We saw what Pocock did to us a couple of weeks ago.

"It's something we've talked about as a team and we're going to have to be very good at our attacking breakdown, making sure there's no daylight there."

Latu is the only change the Waratahs have made for the clash after a gritty come-from-behind win over the Highlanders in their quarter-final.

Forwards Rob Simmons and Michael Wells have both shaken off head knocks to be fit for the sudden-death clash.

The Waratahs take on the Lions on Saturday, kicking off at 3:05pm local 11:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.


Waratahs to face the Lions

1. Tom Robertson

2. Tolu Latu

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Jed Holloway

5. Rob Simmons

6. Ned Hanigan

7. Will Miller

8. Michael Wells

9. Nick Phipps

10. Bernard Foley

11. Taqele Naiyaravoro

12. Kurtley Beale

13. Curtis Rona

14. Alex Newsome

15. Israel Folau


16. Damien Fitzpatrick

17. Harry Johnson-Holmes

18. Paddy Ryan

19. Tom Staniforth

20. Brad Wilkin

21. Jake Gordon

22. Bryce Hegarty

23. Cam Clark