The HSBC Waratahs have contracted former Wallaby tourist Mitchell Chapman for the 2013 season. He replaces Damien Fitzpatrick, who re-injured his left knee during rehabilitation after surgery. The original injury occurred when the Waratahs defeated the Melbourne Rebels in Round 2 of Super Rugby last year.
Coach Michael Cheika said: ‘Damien will require a specified period of time to ensure that his injury fully recovers. That will rule him out of most of the coming Super Rugby season but we are planning for him to be back in time to take part in the second half of the Shute Shield season.’
Ironically, the cruel injury to the promising hooker has enabled the Waratahs to address an imbalance in their original squad. It had four hookers in it, probably anticipating an unfavourable medical outcome for Fitzpatrick.
Wallaby Tatafu Polota-Nau, John Ulugia and Fitzpatrick were in the main Waratahs side, and Luke Holmes was in the Extended Playing Squad. The replacement of Fitzpatrick reduces the hooking stable to three.
The 29-year-old Holmes played in 27 games in his time at the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, so he should be able to step up seamlessly into the main squad if there is a further injury in the position.
The recruitment of Chapman provides a worthy back-up for Dave Dennis as a blindside flanker, occasional lock and No. 8, and a lineout option.
As Cheika said, ‘Mitchell has been brought in to fill a specific profile within our squad. I felt we needed a lock who will be able to help share the workload of our two internationals, Kane Douglas and Sita Timani, and offer an experienced partner for our two young locks, Ollie Atkins and Greg Peterson, especially around the set piece.’
Chapman played 68 games of Super Rugby during his stints with the Reds and the Brumbies and will therefore have the experience to make a contribution with little delay. As Sitaleki Timani did last year, the new Waratah player will report for duty once his obligations with his Japanese club are over, some time in February.
Excited about returning to Super Rugby, the 29-year-old ex-Wallabies tourist said, ‘I’ve been watching it on TV and the chance to come back and test myself against the best players has been very motivating.
‘Specifically with the Waratahs, I know some of the things that Michael Cheika has put in place rugby-wise. Through the grapevine I’ve also heard that it’s a positive place to be. Along with how they are looking to play the game, that was something I wanted to be a part of and the main reason for my decision.’