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Will the real Waratahs please stand up … only with a new coach and playmaker


Spiro Zavos

X-factor … Bernard Foley.

X-factor … Bernard Foley. Photo: Reuters

INSIDE the Waratahs is a good team waiting to come to life. If this team, the good Waratahs, manages to emerge tonight for 80 minutes at Allianz Stadium, the rampant Hurricanes could be in for a scare. After all, the Hurricanes have won only twice in Sydney from their last eight starts. But the history of this 2012 NSW side suggests the team needs a new coach and a new playmaker for the real Waratahs to emerge.

Last weekend against the Cheetahs the good Waratahs played a terrific first half in which they scored four tries. Just after half-time they kicked a conversion to stretch their lead. But then the bad Waratahs kicked in, literally. I wrote in my notebook about play after this penalty: ''Barnes kicks long … McKibbin kicks … Foley kicks … Barnes kicks … Barnes actually passes … Barnes kicks.'' The result of all this kicking the ball to the Cheetahs was that the home side stormed back, scored tries and took the lead.

The Cheetahs, a team with one of the worst defensive records in this year's Super Rugby competition, then held on grimly despite a typically misguided attempt by the Waratahs forwards to pick-and-drive their way to a try. A turnover was conceded and the chance of kicking the winning field goal, with Berrick Barnes in the slot waving his arms frantically for the ball, was lost.

This brain-dead play and the consequent loss destroyed their season and possibly the continued head coaching aspirations of Michael Foley. It was reported this week that Foley would consider staying on with the Waratahs with someone else as the head coach. This opens the way, it seems, for the Waratahs board (an oligarchy in need of reform) to consider making Scott Johnson, the current assistant coach of Scotland, an offer he can't refuse.

Johnson is apparently a candidate to be head coach of the Western Force. But the Waratahs job is a better fit for him. He was a clever five-eighth in Sydney club rugby. Later he proposed changes to the laws of rugby and organised a trial game to demonstrate them. Many of these Johnson's Laws (as I called them after they were demonstrated at Milner Field in a special match) are now in the law book some decades later. He has coached at the international level for the Wallabies, Wales and Scotland, and at club level in Britain. In 2001, he was the attack coach of the Waratahs when they were one of four teams with a plus points differential.

Eleven Waratahs were selected for Robbie Deans's first Wallabies squad for 2012 leading into the Test on Tuesday at Newcastle against Scotland. It was interesting, and a sort of implied criticism of the Waratahs coaching team, that Bernard Foley, the mercurial former Australian Sevens star and current Waratahs fullback, was nominated as a fullback and a five-eighth. It was Deans who promoted Quade Cooper very early on in his career into the Wallabies. And what structure there is in Cooper's play started with his coaching in the Wallabies. Deans seems to be hinting that Foley has potential, perhaps, to be a Waratahs equivalent of Cooper: a match-winning, entertaining No. 10.

This Deans hint is something the current Waratahs coaching staff should take seriously after the June break. A feature of the Tahs' play this season has been a lack of energy around the halves. There has been too much kicking and not enough running at the defensive line.

Sarel Pretorius was brought from the Cheetahs to provide dynamic running from the base of the scrum. He showed some of this flair in the pre-season matches. Brendan McKibbin has been adequate but with no great dynamism.

A bright spark like Bernard Foley playing at No.10 could light up the back play of the Waratahs. It needs this type of play to bring back the crowds. Foley should watch Beauden Barrett energise the Hurricanes to see how this can be done.

7 comments so far

  • Being a lifetime Waratahs fan I too have found this season particularly frustrating but, really, isn't this chopping and changing of coaches part of the problem. Give the guy more than one season to prove himself. He and the players will be better for the experience.

    Date and time
    June 02, 2012, 10:56AM
    • Another good article from Spiro. I'm not one of those calling for the head of Foley. However - as they are playing dumb footy, not winning on the scoreboard nor with the fans - clearly something is very wrong somewhere. It also seems clear that something major has to change for a seismic shift to occur. As it's unlikely that the board are going to sack themselves, it's either the players or the coach / coaches that have to change. What's really got me beat though is that with nothing to lose why Michael Foley doesn't try winning in a different way.

      Blinky Bill
      Bellingen NSW
      Date and time
      June 02, 2012, 12:08PM
      • 11 Waratahs selected in the Wallabies and, with the weight of possession AND territory they just got turned over by the Hurricanes in the wet? Does this say more about the range of players Deans has to choose from than it does about the quality of the Waratahs? Scotland mid-week would have to worth a punt, right?

        Date and time
        June 02, 2012, 10:44PM
        • @chracol: You've got it in one, the Scots should take the Wallabies out and the Boyos' will thrash them, (for what it's worth, that's my opinion), as on observation of the quality of the Australian Franchise Super 15 rugby in general which in short, is dreadfully weak, it could very easily be presumed the Wallabies will lose!

          There is not one standout team for Deans to pick from, dispute that if you like, because the top South African sides and at least four of the New Zealand sides would beat any of the Australian sides with ease at the moment!

          Disregard the Waratahs as they are as the norm awful, the Brumbies may be top of the OZ franchise but they're nothing outstanding and the Rebels should've beaten them on Friday, they got lucky!,

          Take the Brumbies as the top OZ Franchise.
          They are well below South Africa and New Zealand on overall points and there's no guarantee they'll win their next three games as one scribe here suggests as none of the three to be played are going to lie down and if the Blues play like they did this weekend, the Brumbies won't beat them, as the only thing wrong with the Blues is the lack of belief in themselves, as on paper they should beat any side which they came very close to doing against the overall leader this weekend, and the Force won't lie down either!

          The intensity needed to win at the top level, is not evident in any of the Australian franchises, they do not attack the ball all over the Park, in rucks, mauls, drive forward or overall defence or attack as the New Zealanders in particular do, they attack all aspects from go to whoa, and never give up!

          Date and time
          June 03, 2012, 8:57AM
        • @ chracol
          I understand what you're getting at but I think a Test match compared to S15 game is rather onerous. Yes there are a lot of Tahs in the squad but they might, if selected, play with more aplomb with the other players around them. Hey it might be worth a punt on Scotland but the odds are tightening.
          @ kirky
          Oh to be born a Kiwi and to given the god-given talents that you and your bros are so often given to reminding us poor, weak and pathetic Aussies. What troubles me is why would you bloody bother.I mean, if we're that crap and it's all over our underpants then what's the point.
          Or is it you don't have anything else to do and feel the need to school these idiot Aussies. Does this make you feel superior, better, wiser and you just get a big laugh out of it?
          No, of course you don't!
          It's really because you love and respect us so much but are having trouble expressing it. You know the love, brotherly love.Hey, it's OK nothing to be embarassed about. You love your Rugby, right?
          It's difficult for some men to express and communicate in terms greater than just gross generalisations, grunts, gestures and groans.
          So keep trying @ kirky and like those Kiwi cus ...never give up!

          inner west sydney
          Date and time
          June 03, 2012, 3:46PM
      • No Spiro, it does not mean the Waratahs need a new Coach !
        Just look at the history of the last 5 years !, I ask many times have we changed the Coach in that period ???
        If changing the Coach was the problem, then surely it would have been fixed by now thru the frequent changes !
        No Spiro, it means the upper management of the Waratahs at Moore Park are the problem, its the top management at Moore Park that has to change so that well respected previously successful Coaches can implement a successful Coaching program with the players they need to acheive that,

        Blind Freddie
        Date and time
        June 03, 2012, 10:53PM
        • @ Machooka ... good call .. I guess the proof will be in the pudding ... I fully expect the Wallabies to better Scotland but looking at the team Deans has selected I'm not so sure ... I really don't know about Barnes or Harris ... as a combo ... Deans has limited choice but Barnes - and it's easy to be an armchair critic - be he just makes me shake the head and Harris can kick goals but whether he's true international quality will be revealed after Wednesday ...

          Date and time
          June 04, 2012, 3:30AM

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