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Super Rugby semi-final: Stylish NSW Waratahs rekindle fans' love of football

On fire: The Waratahs and Adam Ashley-Cooper are shooting for a place in the Super Rugby final.

On fire: The Waratahs and Adam Ashley-Cooper are shooting for a place in the Super Rugby final. Photo: Getty Images

Virtue has its own rewards. At 9.27pm last Monday a media release from the Waratahs franchise popped up on my laptop. It had this exuberant headline: "Over 33,000 Tickets Snapped Up For Tahs."

The tickets are for Saturday night’s Super Rugby semi-final against the ACT Brumbies. A win for the Waratahs ensures them their first-ever home final.

The Waratahs are not only winning, they are winning in style. They are bringing back the joy in rugby for their supporters, and for followers of the game in the SANZAR region. Good.

There is no "hard day at the office" mentality about the play of the Waratahs. I dislike this phrase, which is often used by players talking about their sport. Boxing is one game you don't play. But rugby is a game, first and foremost, that you play. It is not office work. Players need to enjoy the contest no matter how fierce and nerve-racking it is. 

All Black Richie McCaw, for instance, said that the last 20 minutes of the 2011 Rugby World Cup final were "the best 20 minutes of my life". The Waratahs have brought the same notion of loving the contest to their play throughout this season.

As a consequence of this, they are becoming a Lovemarks franchise.

The concept of Lovemarks was devised by Kevin Roberts, the worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and a former chairman of USA Rugby. Lovemarks, argues Roberts, "build Loyalty that goes Beyond Reason". The concept is based on respect and love.

There is a passionate support building for the attacking game of the Waratahs, as the crowd numbers are indicating. 

The key to this Waratahs attacking game is a tactical innovation introduced by coach Michael Cheika. The Waratahs use two lines of attack, like many sides. But their front line attacks in an arrow formation, a leading runner having players slightly behind him, on the inside and outside.

This is a new tactic. The runner has the option of taking the tackle, or slipping a pass to a support runner. The effect of this formation on the opposing players is that it requires them to thicken the defensive line near the ruck. What this means, in turn, is that space is created out wide for the second line of runners. 

It is no accident, then, that Israel Folau has scored a record number of tries (12) this season for the Waratahs. Adam Ashley-Cooper has made more breaks at centre, too, than he has in the last five seasons combined. Rob Horne, a journeyman in the past, has become a penetrative runner.

The arrowhead formation has allowed the Waratahs to be the best team in the tournament for carries, metres gained, offloads, passes and clean breaks in each game. 

The Highlanders and the Reds (who conceded their biggest losing margin to the Waratahs) could not handle this running onslaught in recent weeks. Somehow the Brumbies will have to find a way to close down the runners. Their tactics to do this will be interesting. Then they have to make breaks themselves against the best defence in the tournament.

Last week against the Chiefs the Brumbies performed the second part of this equation, essentially through a phenomenal running performance by Henry Speight. Virtually all the Brumbies penetration came from Speight who made 186 metres, broke 12 tackles (the second-best of any player in a Super Rugby match), created two line breaks and made three offloads.   

Stephen Larkham, in his first season as head coach, has slowly changed the style of his side from the "Jakeball" game inherited from Jake White’s stint as coach to the more traditional Brumbies game, "Macqueenball". The attacking elements of this Macqueenball game worked well against the Chiefs. But the defensive aspects need tightening.

There is no love between the two teams. There is the feeling among the Waratahs they were dobbed in by Brumbies players for breaking a curfew when the Wallabies played Ireland last year. 

Will the Brumbies revert to the Jakeball game under this pressure? Will the Waratahs keep the faith in their running game?

Prediction: The Waratahs and the Crusaders (another Lovemarks side) to contest the 2014 Super Rugby final.

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Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BLU 04:10FSS
CHF vs CRU 17:35WS
REB vs BRU 19:40AAMI
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs SHA 02:05Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs STO 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 2 1 1 0 42 6
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Stormers 2 2 0 0 23 8
Chiefs 2 2 0 0 7 8
Rebels 2 1 1 0 0 5
Sharks 2 1 1 0 11 6
Cheetahs 1 1 0 0 6 5
Highlanders 2 1 1 0 1 5
View all
 
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