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Michael Cheika's list shows coach's vision for revitalising NSW Waratahs


Michael Cheika has put his stamp on the Waratahs by signing these nine players. Here he tells Rupert Guinness why he chose them.

Back in business: Kurtley Beale.

Back in business: Kurtley Beale. Photo: Andy Zakeli

WHEN Michael Cheika became the Waratahs' head coach, he more or less inherited his squad from his predecessor, Michael Foley, rather than one tailored to suit the style he wanted NSW to play.

At the dawn of his second season, Cheika has a roster of 35 players with his signature on it - from those he kept on to the nine he has recruited.

And as he told Fairfax Media while his squad prepared for its first trial game, against the Melbourne Rebels at Albury on Saturday, the majority of them "haven't been coached by the previous regime''.

Ball skills: Tolu Latu.

Ball skills: Tolu Latu. Photo: Getty Images

''There are probably 19 or 20 guys who have only been coached here by us,'' he said. ''That is a big revolution. I've only been here 13 or 15 months. It's a big turnaround."

Cheika said one of the ramifications of having a revamped Waratahs squad was that the leadership team would "have to drive and make sure all the guys are clear on our identity''.

"I think everyone in … the joint [since] last year is much more comfortable with that and [everyone is] a bit more mature and understanding of their role. … it's time to put it on them.''

Speedster: Matt Carraro.

Speedster: Matt Carraro. Photo: Getty Images

It might be time to face the challenge, but before the Waratahs' campaign does get under way, Fairfax Media asked Cheika for his thoughts about those nine players he has brought into the squad - from their attributes to the challenges they will face.


Alofa Alofa

Finisher: Alofa Alofa.

Finisher: Alofa Alofa. Photo: Getty Images

Position: Wing

Height: 185cm

Weight: 93.5kg

Date of birth: March 12, 1991

Place of birth: Auckland, NZ

Signed from: West Harbour

Senior club: West Harbour

Assets: "Promoted from the ranks of Shute Shield, his assets are his footwork and speed. He is a finishing winger. He scored many tries in the Shute Shield last year."

Challenge: "To understand his role well enough to excel at Super Rugby. To get himself up to the pace of the game as soon as he can to compete for selection early on."


Kurtley Beale

Position: Fullback/five-eighth

Height: 184cm

Weight: 90kg

Date of Birth: January 6, 1989

Place of Birth: Sydney

From: Melbourne Rebels

Senior club: To be confirmed

Assets: "An obvious ability to read the game superbly. He has got a sixth sense about where to be and where the gaps are [in the opposition's defence to capitalise from.]"

Challenge: "To acquire the knowledge of the shape of our game at the Waratahs and then to have the patience to run that game and run it well when he is on the field."



Matt Carraro 

Position: Outside-centre

Height: 185cm

Weight: 93kg

Date of birth: August 4, 1984

Place of birth: Gosford

Signed from: Montpellier, France

Senior club: Randwick

Assets: ''Has experience playing overseas and has also played for NSW. Can play wing and centre. An out-and-out finisher - a strong runner with straight-line speed.''

Challenge: "Finding his place in the team. On wings and in centres, competition is strong. But his versatility and experience will make him an important part of the team."



Tala Gray

Position: No.8

Height: 194cm

Weight: 114kg

Date of birth: February 28, 1990

Place of birth: Melbourne

Signed from: Biarritz, France

Senior club: Eastern Suburbs

Assets: ''High impact player with good scrum base skills. Should challenge Wycliff Palu for the No.8 slot. Can play at No.6, and is also a strong runner and defender.''

Challenge: ''Getting into the back row against the likes of [Wycliff] Palu, Michael Hooper, Pat McCutcheon, Dave Dennis, Jed Holloway.''


Dave Horwitz * 

Position: Five-eighth

Height: 182cm

Weight: 92kg

Date of birth: September 30, 1994

Place of birth: Sydney

Signed from: Randwick

Senior club: Randwick

Assets: "Talent for the future. Priority is to get him to be Australian 20s five-eighth … He is learning quickly."

Challenge: "Understanding how to organise his team and run it consistently in Super Rugby, and then to develop into the playmaker we are looking for down the track."

Extended playing squad

Jono Lance

Position: Inside-centre

Height: 183cm

Weight: 92kg

Date of birth: June 27, 1990

Place of birth: Canberra

Signed from: Queensland Reds

Senior club: To be confirmed

Assets: "A consummate professional. Had an excellent pre-season and is very consistent in mid-field. A good attacker, good defender and has a good kicking game."

Challenge: "We identified that he will play in the No.12 jersey. Saying that, he didn't play there for Queensland last year. So it will be to nail down his role there."


Tolu Latu

Position: Hooker

Height: 178cm

Weight: 110kg

Date of birth: February 23, 1993

Place of birth: Tofua, Tonga

Signed from: Sydney University

Senior club: Sydney University

Assets: ''Has massive potential. Is a really good footballer who could probably also play in the back line if he had to. He has good skills and is a really smart player.''

Challenge: ''Get the basics of his game right … and understand the consistency needed to challenge Tatafu Polota-Nau.''


Nick Phipps

Position: Halfback

Height: 180cm

Weight: 87kg

Date of birth: January 9, 1989

Place of birth: Sydney

Senior club: Sydney University

Signed from: Melbourne Rebels

Assets: "More competition to a competitive slot … Good mix with distribution and running games. Excellent defender."

Challenge: "To break into the team. [Brendan] McKibbin played strongly last year. Matt Lucas started to pose a good combination with him. Can see three competing."


Jacques Potgieter

Position: Second-rower

Height: 194cm

Weight: 115kg

Date of birth: April 24, 1986

Place of birth: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Signed from: Fukuoka Sanix Blues, Japan

Senior club: To be confirmed

Assets: "The decision to bring Jacques in was to improve and lead our contact game. Has a very good skill set, can play a very good attacking game, and a strong defender."

Challenge: "He hasn't played a lot at lock, so it will be to play at the lock or in the back row and be consistent.''


5 comments so far

  • Matty Lucas played some great footy last year but one suspects he might be lucky to get much game time - probably because of is size counting against him. Very skilful though so you never know. I would have thought Phipps would start in front of the other two.
    Potgeiter at #8 might be interesting if Cliffy can't get his body to hold together. Will watch what happenss with Tala with great interest. Replacing Cliff in the Wallabies has been a real struggle, though Higginbotham might yet do it, if he keeps up his for from 2013.
    Interesting to see that Lance is intended to play at 12, I still wonder if Beale might end up there outside Foley. First season I saw Beale was in 12. He has a lot of baggage to unload though and condition makes a huge difference to how he plays, not to mention the demon drink. I reckon he'll start in 22. I'm not sure if it's 22 or 23.
    Itwill also be interesting to see how the Tongan mafia brings Tolu along. By all accounts he has huge potential. We certainly need a good hooker in the wings.
    Reckon the best team is shaping up as:15 Folau, 14 Crawford, 13 Ashley-Cooper, 12 Horne, 11 Betham, 10 Foley, 9 Phipps, 8 Palu, 7 Hooper, 6 Dennis, 5 Douglas, 4 Potgeiter, 3 Kepu, 2 Polota-Nau, 1 Robinson, 16 Latu, 17 Tilse, 18, Ryan, 19, Skelton, 20 McCutcheon, 21 McKibbin, 22 Beale, 23 Carraro
    If it's only 22 Tilse will probably drop out. Good team on paper. Beale covers 10, 12, 15 and Carraro covers 11, 13, 14. Potgeiter can cover 8 and 6. I do hope Cliffy gets his body through a season or retires.

    Date and time
    January 31, 2014, 11:45PM
    • This week in the NBA has proven that the benchmark for recruiters and roster builders is Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC were down 22-4 against Miami Heat and turned that around for a 112-95 win simply by using the bench. Add to that the job they did on the Houston Rockets two weeks earlier where their bench defense bounced Houston from scoring 72 in the first half to a paltry 19 in the second.
      Depth and flexibility on the bench is just as important in a game of rugby these days. The Waratahs have the schedule in 2014 to build towards a decent post season crusade. They can practice on Australian sides for the first 6 rounds and they avoid the lung busting Cheetahs and the ruthless Crusaders until the finals.

      Date and time
      February 01, 2014, 12:56AM
      • Tala Gray, Jacques Potgieter and Jono Lancs to all be instant starters! These players will pounce at the opportunity, make an immediate impact and, if injuries dont cripple them early, will thrive in their respective positions.

        Date and time
        February 01, 2014, 4:47PM
        • So Sydney University beat Eastwood 51-6 in the first grade finals in 2013. And they get 2 of 7 new Waratah super 15 2014 signings, with two TBA.Talk about evening up the competition. Should the North Shore clubs just align with QLD, Force or the Rebels?

          Date and time
          February 02, 2014, 12:22AM
          • Ah, the joys of another rugby season is almost upon us!!, Can't see past the Chiefs and the Crusaders in the final at Rugby Park in Hamilton!!

            Date and time
            February 02, 2014, 11:46AM

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