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Reign of Foley has run its course as Horror-tahs fail to kick their habit of dispiriting fans


Spiro Zavos

Shaping to kick. But far too often for the Waratahs' fans ... Berrick Barnes.

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.

30 comments so far

  • Spiro, I really don't know what it will take for the NSW rugby establishment to appreciate the withering of their (once-upon-a-time, "our") franchise through the turgid and debilitating style of play of the team. It is, quite simply, rugby that I refuse to watch, much less pay to see. The Tahs remain my team only in the sense that I support no other: I cannot support their style of play, and will not lend any financial, moral or physical support to a culture which perpetuates that style. When, please tell me, can we expect a change?

    Date and time
    May 26, 2012, 9:40PM
    • toughest job in the world - wouldn't be the waratahs coach for all the tea in china

      Date and time
      May 26, 2012, 10:28PM
      • Just watched the Brumbies lose by one point and a missed kick on the bell that could have gained them a win they wouldn't have deserved. They seemed to have adopted the Horror-Tahs (like it"!) game plan, up and unders from their own quarter, constantly kicking away possession and failing to chase the kick. Jake White has promoted an exciting, entertaining brand of rugby in the ACT this year and it has worked, why then did they ignore it and don't NSW's defeatist and unsuccessful style which not surprisingly gained them a NSW result?

        Date and time
        May 26, 2012, 11:00PM
        • That was supposed to read, "ignore it and ADOPT a NSW style of play"

          Date and time
          May 27, 2012, 8:50AM
      • Well, finally someone's said what is otherwise known as the bleedin' obvious ...Sydney needs a team with Sydney style and there isn't any of that in the current mob ... including a coach with character - maybe Robbie's the boy, eh?

        Barnes really hasn't profited from the move south and unfortunately is just a bad fit in Sydney ... the tight five have some ability but elsewhere there's a dearth of excitement machines ... Palu continually flatters to deceive and they've signed him for another year ... Horne, possibly the Australian center, is not used well provincially least with Tuqiri and Rogers and Sailor there was an identity but what's their identity now - Tom Carter exposed as a petulant schoolboy earlier in the season and a defensive liability for the remainder?

        Date and time
        May 26, 2012, 11:24PM
        • Carter thinks he is a forward.......see how many times he seems to get "caught" in rucks.......looks like a petulant schoolboy

          heading off
          Date and time
          May 27, 2012, 5:35PM
        • Palu is well and truely past his best. The Timani brothers need to get more of a run.

          How much better does Horne look with Adam Ashley-Cooper inside him instead of Tom Carter?

          Date and time
          May 28, 2012, 5:46AM
      • It's pretty easy, Let the playing dead wood go or push it, find a world class coach, let him pick his assistants, get some good young blokes who want to have a go with a few wise heads who also want a go and let them rip. Oh! maybe ask Jake how to do it.

        Date and time
        May 27, 2012, 9:22AM
        • Oh how much the Aussie media write up so much hype and excuses for the Aussie teams. In Brisbane, when the Reds lose, there are 3 reasons they base it on; 1st-injuries, 2nd-Referee and 3rd, the RWC hangover to explain the flatness of all Aussie sides, well, really to explain the decline of the Reds (even though in 2011, 3 of the Aussie teams were at the bottom 4) The Waratahs failure in 2011 was all about injuries, I get that, now, they have a full squad in 2012 and the results are no better than last year. The problem is, Australia do not have good Rugby coaches. Don't believe me? Jake White is S.African, replaced an Aussie coach now we see the Brumbies heading the Aussie table and the real Aussie threat in the comp. The Chiefs have a new coach, they lead the comp, The Aussie coaches for the Force, Rebels & Reds rate below Jake White, G.Henry, W.Smith, S.Hansen, R.Deans, D.Rennie and others. The irony in this whole mess is you claim you need an Aussie coach for the Wallabies coz 'Aussie coaches understand Aussie players better' but you replaced the coach with a Kiwi who actually replaced the string of Aussie coaches you had before him. At the Rebels, they brought in Rod McQueen coz of his Wallaby success but only managed to 3 wins from them in their first season and he got replaced. Get a Kiwi to coach your Waratahs and you'll get better results. Don't believe me? we've won 10 Super Rugby Titles, won 10 Tri-Nations, 2 World Cups. Need I say more?

          Date and time
          May 27, 2012, 10:24AM
          • good points have to agree - but tough kiwi coach may not float with the soft under belly that is the warpath playing roster

            Date and time
            May 28, 2012, 1:47AM

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