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Tahs ready to bench marquee halfback

Date

Greg Growden

Cut off … Sarel Pretorius trained with the main Waratahs squad for only a small part of yesterday's training session.

Cut off … Sarel Pretorius trained with the main Waratahs squad for only a small part of yesterday's training session. Photo: Steve Christo

THE Waratahs' marquee overseas signing Sarel Pretorius is in danger of being demoted to the bench for his team's first encounter of the year against his countrymen when they play the Sharks in Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

Back-up halfback Brendan McKibbin's goalkicking ability could work in his favour when the selectors choose their team today, and see him start ahead of Pretorius, as there are concerns about placing any further pressure on Berrick Barnes, who will take over from Daniel Halangahu at five-eighth.

With Halangahu scheduled to be on the bench, Barnes was anticipated to take over as the team's goal-kicker. However there is a fear that this role could aggravate the Wallaby utility's groin complaint, which saw him miss the first two Super Rugby rounds. When Barnes was sidelined, he admitted that the injury had restricted his ability to kick goals. And the Waratahs don't want Barnes to again join their growing list of unavailable Test players. Promoting McKibbin is one way to overcome those goal-kicking dilemmas.

In line for promotion ... Brendan McKibbin.

In line for promotion ... Brendan McKibbin. Photo: Getty Images

McKibbin ran with the Waratahs' main team for virtually all of the 90-minute

training session at Allianz Stadium, while Pretorius, who was lured to Sydney this year from the Cheetahs, was in the back-up squad. It was only in the final moments of the session that Pretorius, who trained with a heavily strapped knee, and McKibbin swapped roles.

Also at the end of training, McKibbin practised his goal-kicking - clearly preparing himself in case he is required on Saturday. Barnes was also a spectator for the final part of training after having an ice pack applied to a corked left quadriceps.

Waratahs coach Michael Foley admitted that after a tough and emotional first month, it was time for several players to be rotated. With more than four months to go in the tournament, Foley knows that eventually key players, especially those involved in virtually 80 minutes of play week-in week-out, have to be either rested, or used off the bench.

When yesterday asked if he was considering ''resting and rotating players'', Foley replied: ''You will see this week that we're probably looking at that in a couple of positions throughout the team.''

Pretorius was a standout in the opening three rounds, but was outplayed by the Force halfback Brett Sheehan last Saturday night, where he struggled with the physicality of the opposition onslaught. Nonetheless it would surprise many, in particular the Sharks, if McKibbin, rather than Pretorius, starts.

When Sharks coach John Plumtree was asked yesterday who were the most dangerous threats in the Waratahs team, he said: ''We know a fair bit about Sarel Pretorius, and his running game can be really effective. He is very quick.''

Chris Alcock is also likely to regain his openside breakaway position, while Sitaleki Timani is a strong chance to be part of the Waratahs back row after Dave Dennis sat out training for the second day in a row. Dennis, who has undergone a huge workload this season, is still certain to be part of the 22-man squad.

Waratahs winger Adam Ashley-Cooper provided the necessary pep talk by stating that after their dismal season start, how they ''bounced back'' against the Sharks would ''define the character of this squad, and the character of the individuals''.

''I'm looking forward to getting out there and putting in a really good performance. Not only does this team deserve it, but so too do our supporters,'' Ashley-Cooper said.

Added Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu: ''We can't get any worse than we were last week, but the enthusiasm this week has been good.

''We did slip back against the Force, but we will improve. In this competition you just have to front up week-in, week-out. There is just no excuse for us having a game like that. We were mentally not switched on … and this week we really do have to muscle up.''

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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