Waratahs can't "stand still" after Crusaders win: Tandy

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs had plenty to be proud of after an upset win over the Crusaders but it was the moment that irked them which pleased defence coach Steve Tandy most.

NSW held out the Crusaders for most of the second half but conceded a try after full-time to leave the final score 20-12.

“The boys are still annoyed to concede the last try in particular, we feel we want to build a mentality where we don't give anything cheap...it would have been better as the defensive coach to win 20-7,” he said.

That mentality is one that Tandy wants the side to take into Friday night's clash with the Sunwolves, who sucked NSW into their own unpredictable game plan when they faced off in round two.

“It's growth and it's something we spoke about today, it's not about beating the Crusaders then not backing it up," Tandy said.

“There's elements - people are talking about us defensively - but there's so much growth still in us.

"Very, very good teams look at what they did but also how can they improve it. How can we consistently have that blue wall, how can we consistently grow and get better, can we be faster, could we have had more turnovers?

"(We need to be) constantly critiquing ourselves at where we can improve otherwise I think it's just standing still. You can't stand still in this competition.”

The "Blue Wall” Tandy speaks about is the name the Waratahs have developed for their defensive system this season, one that is clearly paying dividends.

While their attack has struggled to find a groove this season, NSW have become a force on the other side of the ball, making the third-most tackles of any side in the competition this season.

"The boys are getting more trust and connection and how they go about business and around working together and then making good choices around it," he said.

"It's just something that seems to be growing and they seem to be talking about it a lot and more than happy for them to talk about what they're doing really positively and buying into something. Doesn't matter what system you're running, if everyone buys into it it'll hopefully end up being right and that's something we buy into at the minute."

Blindside flanker Ned Hanigan said while there hadn't been a radical change in defence, the trust that Tandy spoke of was growing each week.

“It's not that different it's just blokes staying more connected with one another and you're just trusting that the fellas inside and outside you have got your back,” he said.

“It sounds simple but really practising it and making sure you don't have those rogue guys, that blue wall is what we refer to it as and you just keep turning up.”

The system is not as rigid as it sounds, though, with players given the licence to make their impact felt at the right time, something Karmichael Hunt did off the bench against the Crusaders.

Blindside flanker Ned Hanigan said Hunt's efforts, including a particularly heavy hit just after he came into the game, set the tone for his teammates.

"It lifts the team. Karmichael comes off the bench and it's just carnage wherever he goes," he said.

"It's definitely lifting the team and that's what you need from your bench players, that 60-minute mark, 70-minute mark, you need that speed up and things need to happen."

The wall will be tested as players come in and out of the side, with some key Wallabies likely to be rested against the Sunwolves in Newcastle, including flyhalf Bernard Foley.

Key Test players have been pencilled into miss two regular season games and so far this season Kurtley Beale is the only Waratah to sit out a game.

Though Tandy was giving nothing away when it came to who might be rested, he was confident changes to the team wouldn’t have an impact on their progress.

“We've got to trust our squad,” Tandy said.

“The Super boys have been working hard and I know they'll bring a lot of energy if we do make changes.

“This will be the test of the squad and where we want to go to as a team.

“You can't just rely on 15 or 23 players, you've got to rotate them round and trust the group who are going to come in or the individuals to slot into a system and make sure we get a result on the weekend.”

The Waratahs will travel to Newcastle on Thursday before Friday’s match against the Sunwolves.

The Waratahs take on the Sunwolves on Friday March 29 at McDonald Jones Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.