Some people have been questioning the value of having a bye week so early in the competition but for the Waratahs it could not have come at a better time. Having sustained a few injuries to key players in the squad, the time away from competitive rugby would have helped to ignite the fire to get the Waratahs’ campaign back on track.
It gives the players a week of soul-searching. Throw in some heated exchanges at training, such as the one last week between Drew Mitchell and Dean Mumm, and you have a situation the coaches would quietly have enjoyed. You can often see wry smiles on the faces of the bigwigs when non-contact sessions gradually escalate and become full contact, as the players up the ante for spots, creating a healthy, competitive environment. Now this aggression has to be transferred to the pitch tomorrow night.
The game this week gives some new players an opportunity, and offers the Tahs the chance to get their season back on the rails. In all honesty, although the Cheetahs’ record is a little lame, the Tahs can’t take this game lightly.
The Cheetahs traditionally boast a massive forward pack. They will be strong at the scrum, and they will be strong when they hit the breakdown. But their size leaves them facing a dilemma – they have to get to the breakdown first. The heavier pack will have to do some running to keep up with the speed of the Waratahs’ game. With quickly recycled ball, the Waratahs have developed a continuity in their game this season, which is key to giving individuals such as Kurtley Beale, Mitchell and, this week Lachie Turner at No.13, a chance to shine. But a lot of love has to be given to the forwards, as they will bear the brunt of the initial confrontation with the South Africans.
So what would the Waratahs like to put right from their last performance? Leadership and direction around the field. The Tahs scored three tries against the Crusaders but still looked rudderless at times. Each player must own his ”own area” – it’s the key to the overall success of the team.