Waratahs banking on combinations, continuity ahead of 'must-win' clash

Fri, 23/04/2021, 09:00 pm
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Jake Gordon poses with Weary Dunlop Shield ahead of Rebels clash. Photo: Getty Images

The Waratahs are backing on some added stability ahead of their 'must-win' clash with the Melbourne Rebels.

For the first time in 2021, the home side has been able to name an unchanged line-up.

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This reflects the frenetic and disjointed nature of their Super Rugby AU season, hammered by a bevy of injuries and suspensions in the first three weeks.

“it’s great to have combinations there and we have that luxury this week with the team not changing,” Waratahs captain Jake Gordon told reporters.

“I’m excited to play another game with Dano and our centres are starting to excel. It’s good to see Doggy (Jack Maddocks) at fullback getting involved and Rammy (James Ramm) and Nobby (Alex Newsome) are starting to finish well and find some gaps out wide.”

Gordon believes that this has come at the perfect time, who considers this game 'must-win' despite the Waratahs being officially eliminated from finals contention last week.

“It's a huge motivation for us. We’ve spoken about improving each week and I think we’ve done a great job of that recently but we’re still chasing that W,” Gordon told reporters.

"It's a must-win for us. We don't want to finish the year on a whitewash.

“Especially with the Trans-Tasman competition coming up, we need to build up some confidence and hit the ground running.

“We definitely think we can win, we’ve had a strong preview of them and there are ways we think we can test the Rebels and hopefully come away with the win.”

Starting debutant Ben Donaldson showed no nerves as he ditched the tee for a brilliant drop goal conversion.

The added continuity has been particularly evident across their back-line, scoring six tries in two games, the same amount that they managed to score in their first five.

Izaia Perese (suspension) and Lalakai Foketi (shoulder) made their return in Round Six and have instantly made an impact, with Perese breaking an incredible 13 tackles in the last three games.

“I met him in 2017 and he’s always been a good athlete,” Gordon said on Perese.

“I always know what he could do. Unfortunate with what happened in Round One with that spear tackle but he’s a great athlete with really good ball-carrying skills, very aggressive in contact.

“You’ve seen in the past two weeks that he’s been sniffing off the nines and tens and getting himself involved which is really exciting. We want guys like him who are dangerous getting the ball in their hands.”

“It’s good to see Lalakai back as well, he’s had a bad run with injury. He’s very talented with ball in hand and a great carrier. Izzy being very direct takes a lot of pressure off him.

“I do feel like we’re starting to find a nice combination there but it was also great to see Donno (Ben Donaldson) have a good game with Will Harrison being out.”


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The NSW Waratahs host the Melbourne Rebels for the Weary Dunlop Shield on Saturday Night, ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport as well as simulcast live on 9Gem,click here to purchase tickets.

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