UPDATE: SCG given all-clear for Waratahs-Crusaders clash

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten in Japan

UPDATE: The Sydney Cricket Ground has been given the all-clear to host the Waratahs-Crusaders clash on Saturday.

The Waratahs announced the SCG on Wednesday had been given the green light after inspections by independent experts this week.

The SCG surface came under criticism after the Waratahs’ last clash at the venue against Queensland two weeks ago, in which large chunks of turf were ripped up under the boots of forwards in scrums and mauls.

The SCG Trust responded by replacing 3000 square metres of turf, and after an NRL game last weekend was largely unaffected due to a different field alignment, the new sections will be put to the test for the first time in the Waratahs-Crusaders game.

"The NSW Waratahs today confirmed that the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) has been cleared for Saturday’s round six Vodafone Super Rugby match against the Crusaders," a NSW Rugby statement said.

"Following the Waratahs’ round four match that saw some of the surface compromised by heavy scrummaging, the SCG promptly replaced 3000m2 of turf to ensure it was ready for the next Super Rugby match.

"The field was assessed this week by the New South Wales Rugby Union and SCG representatives as well as independent consultants, who deemed the field to meet Super Rugby standards." 

The SCG surface was ripped up by scrums on Saturday night. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyWaratahs veteran Sekope Kepu said on Tuesday that adaptability would be the key when scrummaging at the SCG.

Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore, SCG Trust officials and an independent assessor inspected the SCG on Monday and a final approval, or otherwise, on the playing surface is expected on Wednesday.

Unofficially, rhe Waratahs have been given enough assurance to be confident the venue is safe and able to host the game.

Kepu has more reason to be concerned about unstable surfaces than most, and not just because he is a front rower.

In 2008 the prop suffered a torn pectoral in a scrum collapse at Wembley Stadium in London when turf “rolled up like carpet” under their feet. Matt Dunning also suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

But Kepu appears unfazed about the SCG surface.

"I believe they’ve re-turfed it and looked to improve it, particularly after what happened in the Reds game and as far as I know we are out there, and regardless of the surface, you just have to adapt to the conditions and whatnot,” Kepu said.

"We will be going out there to scrummage as per normal and do a job."

The Waratahs forwards will get a sense of the new SCG turf when they have a captains’ run at the venue on Friday and do some live scrummaging.

“‘Cronno’ (forwards coach Simon Cron) loves to pack a few down whenever we need it and we always take our scrum boots to the captains run so I am sure he has a couple of scrums up his sleeve for the captains run if we need it. 

"You get a feel for it and you go out there and have a few two-on-twos and three-on-threes to test it out.”

Scrummaging is set to be key battle in the Waratahs-Crusaders game, with the champion Kiwi team possessing a superb scrum.

The Crusaders front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks is an-All Black engine room, and the alliance of Kepu, Damian Fitzpatrick and Harry Johnson-Holmes will have their hands full.

Making life tougher is the likelihood uncapped Norths hooker Andrew Tuala will be on the bench, with Tatafu Polota-Nau having been recalled to Leicester.

"They’ve got an international forward pack, tight-five,”  Kepu said.

"You’ve got Owen Franks and Joe Moody with Codie and those guys there so you’ve always got to expect a tussle and massive fight in the games you play them. 

"It’s another week to challenge yourself against one of the best scrums in the competition. It’s going to be a massive challenge but one that we look forward to. We’ll definitely be working hard today and the rest of the week. 

They’ve built a core group of guys there over the years and they’ve helped each other get through playing internationals together and they’ve had a strong team now for the last decade. 

"That’s where they get their go forward and that’s where they get their go-forward from and their confidence as a whole team I believe is their tight five."

The Waratahs host the Crusaders at the SCG on Saturday night. Kick is at 7.45pm. LIVE on FoxSports and RUGBY.com.au Radio.