Shaping to kick. But far too often for the Waratahs' fans ... Berrick Barnes. Photo: Getty Images
ROD Kafer is bringing down the house at rugby lunches with this barb: "I congratulate the Waratahs on being in their 16th year of their three-year plan to win the Super Rugby tournament."
The joke has an awful resonance for me. In the days of the disastrous Matt Williams regime he used to plead for more time by insisting: "I have a three-year plan for the Waratahs." My retort to Williams, and to coach Michael Foley, who is facing a fifth consecutive loss this weekend, is that the Waratahs should only have a one-year plan to win the Super Rugby tournament.
The Waratahs' true believers are desperately unhappy with what has happened with the team in the past few years. An email message (one of many) told me last week: "I hate the way the Horror-tahs play rugby." Supporters tell me they have given up going to games and even watching them on television because their style of play is "simply too much to bear".
The Waratahs' last home match in Sydney against the Bulls drew fewer spectators than the Rebels' home match that round against the Crusaders. Going into this weekend's round, the Waratahs (28 points) are fourth in the Australian conference, behind the Brumbies (44), the Reds (36) and the Rebels (29).
The game is up for Foley to remain as Waratahs coach. Before the match against the Stormers in Cape Town, he promised his side would attack the competition leaders with an unrelenting running game.
And what happened? At half-time one of the commentators insisted: "Berrick Barnes has created a world record for up-and-unders."
One of the many bombs was kicked from inside his own 22, total rugby madness. After 20 minutes of play the Waratahs had been forced to make 28 tackles. This is what happens when you kick the ball away. The Stormers had to make only nine tackles. This is what happens when the opposition kicks the ball to you. At least 10 points by the Stormers, a converted try and a penalty, came from running back Waratahs kicks.
The Stormers made 117 carries for 694 metres gained. The Waratahs had just 63 carries for 416 metres gained. Is this running rugby?
The irony is that when the Waratahs did carry the ball, they made greater gains than the Stormers. The problem was (and has been throughout the past couple of seasons) the Waratahs preferred to kick away possession most of the time they had it, and not chase these kicks. It is a truth of rugby that you can't score tries when you don't have the ball.
This week the Waratahs' chief executive Jason Allen rejected any calls for Foley and the coaching staff to be sacked: "Our plan is definitely that he is there again next season. We are not shirking the fact that there are performance issues … We employed Foles because we are confident in his capacity to deliver."
Where does this confidence come from? He worked as the forwards coach with John Connolly with Bath and the Wallabies. He was then forwards coach for the Waratahs during the "win ugly" regime of Chris Hickey. None of these teams won important tournaments while he was involved. There was a distinct lack of flair, too.
And it was Foley who was responsible for recruiting the chronically injured Rocky Elsom to the Waratahs and making him captain.
These decisions represent a fatal attachment to the entitlement system. This has undermined the Waratahs ever since the Williams regime. It needs to end.
After the Stormers loss, Foley was unrepentant. "There were a couple of little things in the first half that probably let us down but the margins are very fine there … I think people are chasing a different answer from me and I don't have one."
The answer might not be clear to him but it is clear to others. The Waratahs need a new head coach.