Changing of the guard ... Michael Hooper, fending off Dean Mumm, leaves the Brumbies for the Waratahs next season while Mumm is moving on. Photo: Getty Images
SAREL PRETORIUS is delighted to be rid of the Waratahs and he is not afraid to say it.
After going from Super Rugby's top try-scorer to being left out of the side in the space of a season, Pretorius was tipped to stay in South Africa after playing the Currie Cup and re-sign with his old province the Cheetahs.
And while it was only officially announced yesterday that the Waratahs' marquee signing would not be returning to Moore Park, Pretorius has been making it known he is delighted to be out of Australia.
"I feel like my old self again and it's nice if the coaches back you," he told Bloemfontein newspaper Volksblad at the end of last month.
"The Waratahs play a lot with the forwards and the scrum-half only has to do the basic things well. Actually, he only needs to be a link between forwards and backs. At the Cheetahs the game plan suits me better."
After building considerable hype around their overseas recruit, it was clear before the season reached the halfway point that the Waratahs were struggling to fit Pretorius into their game and structures.
Brendan McKibbin was swapped into the starting halfback position on a number of occasions, leaving Pretorius on the bench, before Grayson Hart was ahead of both of them towards the end of the season.
Adding insult to injury, Pretorius suffered the indignity of reading in the media comments from Waratahs backs coach Scott Bowen about flaws in his passing game.
The Waratahs yesterday announced an injection of a host of NSW-raised players into their roster for next season.
Former Brumbies fullback Cam Crawford and former Sevens player Michael Hodge join Wallabies flanker and former Brumby Michael Hooper among the new faces recruited to the squad. Sydney University back Peter Betham, New Zealand-born halfback Hart and Tongan No. 8 Lopeti Timani have also been signed to the contracted senior squad.
Australian Sevens player Matt Lucas and Southern Districts second-rower Jed Holloway are also expected to sign with the Waratahs by the end of the month.
Crawford, Hodge and Betham replace departing backs Brackin Karauria-Henry, who will play in Japan, and Daniel Halangahu, who goes to Italy. The future of winger Atieli Pakalani is undecided.
Lucas and Hart will battle it out with McKibbin for the No. 9 jersey.
Hooper, whose standout season for the Brumbies under new coach Jake White this year earned a Wallabies call-up, will compete with new club captain Pat McCutcheon at breakaway. Jono Jenkins, who was called into the squad as injury cover this year, was left off the list of 28 players signed to the senior squad and Chris Alcock has joined the Western Force.
Rocky Elsom, Dean Mumm and Dan Vickerman have also left.
The Waratahs' most anticipated signing, their head coach, had not been finalised, a team spokeswoman said.
Interim head coach Alan Gaffney presided over the final make-up of the senior squad in the absence of former coach Michael Foley.
Waratahs' contracted senior squad to date: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Peter Betham, Tom Carter, Cam Crawford, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Damien Fitzpatrick, Bernard Foley, Grayson Hart, Michael Hodge, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Sekope Kepu, Tom Kingston, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Drew Mitchell, Wycliff Palu, Greg Peterson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Lopeti Timani, Sitaleki Timani, Lachie Turner, John Ulugia.