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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 10vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED 0vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22vs BUL 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43vs RED 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17vs RED 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19vs HUR 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35vs LIO 33 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 58vs RED 17 Report Stats
REB 42vs BLU 22 Report Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 32vs SHA 24 Report Stats
FOR 18vs WAR 11 Report Stats
LIO 28vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 25vs BRU 24 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 23vs BUL 18 Report Stats
RED 46vs REB 29 Report Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 22vs CHF 18 Report Stats
WAR 33vs SHA 18 Report Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO 20vs BRU 30 Report Stats
CHT 24vs HIG 45 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF 34vs BUL 20 Report Stats
RED 14vs SHA 21 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 5vs HUR 29 Report Stats
WAR 32vs CRU 22 Report Stats
FOR 3vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 17vs LIO 40 Report Stats
STO 31vs REB 15 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 35vs HUR 18 Report Stats
BRU 22vs BUL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 25vs REB 21 Report Stats
HIG 36vs CHF 9 Report Stats
FOR 10vs RED 32 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 42vs CHT 12 Report Stats
LIO 27vs WAR 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR 56vs HIG 20 Report Stats
FOR 20vs BRU 33 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB 21vs BUL 20 Report Stats
BLU 11vs CRU 34 Report Stats
RED 3vs CHF 24 Report Stats
CHT 33vs WAR 58 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO 19vs LIO 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU 7vs HIG 44 Report Stats
REB 11vs FOR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU 24vs CRU 37 Report Stats
CHF 13vs HUR 21 Report Stats
WAR 31vs RED 5 Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL 29vs CHT 42 Report Stats
SHA 34vs STO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby Qualifying Finals
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
HIG 24vs CHF 14 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
STO 19vs BRU 39 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby Semi Finals
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR 29vs BRU 9 Stats
WAR 17vs HIG 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby Grand Final
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
HUR 14vs HIG 21 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 2 0 170 66
Waratahs 16 11 5 0 96 52
Stormers 16 10 5 1 50 45
Highlanders 16 11 5 0 117 53
Brumbies 16 9 7 0 108 47
Lions 16 9 6 1 -22 42
Chiefs 16 10 6 0 73 48
Bulls 16 7 9 0 9 38
View all
 

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