TEAM NEWS: Waratahs preparing for bruising encounter with Sharks, Latu returns from ban

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATED: Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper says he and centre partner Karmichael Hunt will be ready for a bruising encounter against the Sharks.

The Waratahs have beefed up their team for the clash with Tolu Latu returning to the bench and no. 6 Lachie Swinton taking Will Miller's spot on the pine.

Winger Curtis Rona is set to start ahead of Alex Newsome for the match, in the only change to the starting team.

It's not just the forwards, that will have to front up against the Sharks, Ashley-Cooper said.

"it's about stopping their momentum. They're a gainline-focused team, they're a team full of big athletes, big bodies and a lot of attacking threats, particularly in that back three," he said.

"So for us, defensively got a huge job but again it's a matter of stopping their momentum.

"That's the job we've been given, so hopefully we can do that and perform well at."

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said Latu's strengths around the park, particularly over the ball, would be a handy addition for his side.

"He gives us a bit more ball carry, he's a bigger man," he said.

"Certainly scrummaging-wise he adds extra weight and technique but we're really looking for him around the park.

"I think that's where he can really add to us. We're not an incredibly big side, and to have someone who can carry the ball for us will be a real bonus."

Kurtley Beale looked right at home at fullback and Ashley-Cooper said he brought a new dimension to the team playing at 15, with Israel Folau's absence forcing a backline reshuffle.

"He's very comfortable back there and he adds a whole new attacking element to our team," he said.

"He brings a really good kicking game, his vision's the best in the game so we've got to play to those strengths and make sure we're injecting him in the game as much as we can."

The Rebels peppered Beale with high balls at the SCG but the fullback generally coped well.

Ashley-Cooper said he was confident the NSW back three could stand up to the pressure if the Sharks decided to follow the Rebels' blueprint.

"In a way but we're ready for that," he said.

"Anyone in the back three is preparing for high ball attack, so as long as we do our job in that role and we're accurate and we execute and we catch the ball, it'll be fine.

Both the Sharks and Waratahs have been inconsistent this season - the Sharks thrashed the Lions in Johannesburg before conceding two home matches in as many weeks, while NSW have battled to string together consecutive wins.

This weekend's match shapes as a pivotal opportunity for the teams in the overall log and their individual conference standings.

"Any team that can put 40 points on the Lions in Johannesburg, take them very seriously," Gibson said.

"They're a side that up until the last two results you'd say they were the form team in Africa.

"The competition for us is at a really interesting stage. The table is very congested, there's clearly the Crusaders and then there's the rest of us all battling for spots and positions."

Sharks coach Robert Du Preez said the absence of Israel Folau wouldn't make a major difference in their approach to the challenge of facing the Waratahs.

"He's a fantastic rugby player, he's world-class but I'm sure the players that will take his place will do well for the Waratahs," he said.

"They're a proud team and I'm sure that won't have a detrimental effect on the way they play."

Du Preez said they wouldn't be underestimating the Waratahs pack, coming off a shock loss to the Reds.

"The Rebels are quality team, the Waratahs are quality team," he said.

"If you're off your game, five per cent off your game, then you lose games and sometimes by big margins.

"So, we don't underestimate any of the Aussie teams. We've got too much respect for them."

The Waratahs face the Sharks on Saturday April 27 at Bankwest Stadium, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.


Waratahs to face the Sharks

1. Harry Johnson-Holmes

2. Damien Fitzpatrick

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Jed Holloway

5. Rob Simmons

6. Jack Dempsey

7. Michael Hooper

8. Michael Wells

9. Jake Gordon

10. Bernard Foley

11. Curtis Rona

12. Karmichael Hunt

13. Adam Ashley-Cooper

14. Cam Clark

15. Kurtley Beale


16. Tolu Latu

17. Rory O'Connor

18. Chris Talakai

19. Tom Staniforth

20. Lachie Swinton

21. Nick Phipps

22. Lalakai Foketi

23. Alex Newsome