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Waratahs have players able to turn 'believe' mantra into results

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As to be expected, there is plenty of hype around the start of the Waratahs season. The chat from the coach is that he is not talking small. He has targeted a top-two position and, looking at the squad, you have to think why not. An influx of new talent under a smart coaching outfit, plus a team bursting with Wallabies, makes for good reading.

Michael Cheika recently said the leadership group had to make sure all the guys were clear on their identity. When I think back through history, this is perhaps the area where the Tahs have been lacking. The catchcry this year from the marketing crew is ''Believe''. Fans might think that's a little presumptuous, but I like it because if you want to be the best you have to believe and trust in others.

Who, then, are we going to believe in this season?

Israel Folau would be everyone's first pick. The way he finished 2013 was brilliant. He has excelled in the fullback role but I think he can still offer more. He will grow in his understanding of the positional nuances of No.15, and learn the shortcuts that make his job a little bit easier. His tactical kicking will improve with guidance from new coach Andrew Mehrtens.

On Sunday, the Force will try to starve him of possession to nullify his attacking potential. Frustrate him into doing something outrageous - such as pushing a pass or running when it's not on. There will be opportunities but knowing when to refrain is as important as knowing when to have a go. Look for the counter-attack chances with Alofa Alofa and Peter Betham.

One trait I do like in a player is the ability to overcome adversity. Benn Robinson got the news last year that every player dreads: ''You're no longer required.'' It's numbing. You question yourself, but that can be a good thing. It can make you stronger, and, in the case of Robinson, it has certainly triggered something. Widely regarded as one of the best ball-playing props in world rugby, Robinson has a twinkle of anticipation in his eye. Watch at scrum time for him to dominate, but also offer plenty in a ball-running role.


The quandary is always how do you get width in attack? Distribution will be paramount for the Waratahs this season. That is, getting the ball into the hands of the right people, who are rendered useless if they can't touch the ball.

This is where Bernard Foley comes into play. As playmaker in the side, he controls the flow of the game. I like his vision and especially his passing. He was a standout last year with the Waratahs and was rewarded with a Wallabies berth. Moments like those justify your existence, and self-belief then comes with the territory.

Look for him to release Adam Ashley-Cooper and the outside backs. Foley tends to follow the ball and get a second touch, which is a strength. The consistency in his game will be a key factor in the Waratahs progressing this season.

It is always good to have the bragging rights of having the John Eales Medallist in your team. Michael Hooper's all-round ability is making him one of the most valuable players around. You need a ball winner at the breakdown and he is lethal in that area. He is an excellent exponent as a ball runner and fast becoming a very good understudy to any captain.

The role of mentoring this year will be vital in getting the best out of everyone. Jacques Potgieter was recruited for one thing - his aggression. That's what the coach wants, but I'm sure he would also like Potgieter to play tutor to Will Skelton. If you recall, Skelton was a wrecking machine against the Lions last year. He will admit he ran out of steam, but the makings are there for him to be absolutely devastating. Skelton has presence on the field and, if backed up by the rest of the forward pack, could be a devastating No.8 for the Tahs.

Finally Kurtley Beale. This scribe was critical of his involvement in past events, but rugby has once again become Beale's priority, and the benefits are flowing through. He is fit after some injury concerns and even though his two preferred positions have been handed to other players, Beale has taken a shirt - the No.12 - that will best work for the team. To me, this says he has grown as a player.

I think he will benefit having Foley at No.10 calling the shots, and he can be left to show that something special that people have come to expect.

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