Preview - The Waratahs, the Kings and I - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Preview – The Waratahs, the Kings and I

Preview – The Waratahs, the Kings and I

Looking at the data alone it would be easy to assume this should be a close match.*

Both teams are loitering at the bottom of the table (whichever table you choose to view) and have a negative points differential as close as it gets without being identical. They’ve played the same number of matches, and have similar stories in attack and defence.

So why then do we see the bookies saying the Tahs are screaming favourites? How can this be?

The Teams


It’s all about perspective. The Waratahs have played some good rugby, in between complete lapses of concentration, especially in defence. At various times, they’ve made a game of it against some of the top teams such as the Crusaders and the Hurricanes and pulled one out of the fire against the Rebels.

So, somewhere buried deep within their psyche, there is a good rugby team. Given they can only do it in fits and bursts, perhaps only a part time rugby team.


On the other hand, the Kings are dead men walking, which in many ways is sad, as the team is a young one, and reminds me of a good Colts cohort that has done well in the age ranks and then steps up to grade as a group, and takes a couple of years to find their way.

The Kings look fit, fast and enthusiastic, but lack leadership and good decision making, things which only the currency of time can buy. Sadly, a currency which they have spent—or more accurately—others have spent for them.

The Tahs still have a chance to make a season of it, the Kings, not so much. The Tahs have great expectations, the Kings missed out on the inheritance.

The Kings will have a good game plan – let them kick it back to us

Game plans

The Tahs will see this as an opportunity to put into practice in a match scenario the learnings from the first few rounds, with the bye week providing extra time for fine tuning and navel contemplation.

The Kings are probably the ideal type of opponent to play in such a circumstance, although I suspect the Tahs will still struggle to maintain their intensity for the full 80.

As for the Kings – I suspect they’re playing for fun, each other, and to enjoy what remains of their Super rugby experience, all of which makes them dangerous. Very dangerous….

They will pounce when they see the Waratahs with no tackle line set whether it be from the home team ambling after kicking the ball to the visitors, or from turnover ball with too many Tahs around the ruck they just lost.

Malcolm Jaer – hat-trick scorer against the Force is still injured

The teams

The Kings struggled at the set piece against the Reds, who themselves are relatively weak.

The Tahs should dominate both scrum and lineout, having superior success in both (scrum 91% v 80%, lineout 89% v 82%)*.  This balance may change slightly due to Kepu missing the match due to suspension.

The Kings’ scrum should improve also with the return of 34 year-old tight head prop Ross Geldenhuys, who has played at more clubs than Slim Dusty, including the Highlanders.  His back spasms are gone; so the versatile Justin Forwood moves over to the loose head side.

Lock Irne Herbst also returns to the starting XV, but two of their brightest try-scoring machines will miss the match.  Fullback Malcolm Jaer, who scored a hat-trick against the Force, missed the Reds match and his knee is still not right; Winger Yaw Penxe, who scored 22 seconds after the break in Perth, has concussion issues.

Dave McDuling tackles Thomas du Toit in Durban – will have his first start for the Tahs

Lock Dave McDuling has his debut start for the Tahs as Dean Mumm is rested, and  Tomas Robertson replaces suspended Sekope Kepu at tight head prop.  Rob Horne has recovered from hamstring issues and plays outside centre as Israel Folau moves to fullback.

There is a bit of bench movement too as Angus Ta’avao, who played in 15 games in 2016, makes his return from injury for his first run this season.  Harry Jones could make his Tahs’ debut after Andrew Kellaway injured the hyoid bone in his neck playing for Randwick last weekend.

Head Coach Gibson has said he’s trying to put his best seven backs on the paddock, and then find a place for them, which partly explains the recent regular changes to the backs—plus trying to work out the optimal position for Folau: a solution which lacks unanimity across the Australian rugby landscape.

Harry Jones – could have his debut against the Kings

Why should I bother?

The Tahs are making noises that they will put a away the box kick.  The Kings are gamblers and will try anything if they have a sniff.

What does this all mean? It should make for great entertainment. Be there.

We all know where we were for truly historical events – when JFK was shot, when Princess Diana died, or when Richie McCaw was penalised for being offside at a ruck.

This is such a moment – a unique event in rugby history. The Kings are simultaneously making their debut and their curtain call at the SFS – how special is that? Prepare yourself to be part of trivia history, all the while being able to watch a game of footy.

Richie McCaw – offside in 2001

Key matchups

The breakdown – this battle will be fierce.  The Kings have a genuine fetcher in Chris Cloete, and he will go head to head with Tolu Latu, and occasionally Michael Hooper.  He is fast, strong, and ferocious in all his play.

Latu has been the Tahs’ dominant jackal.  With a rear-end diff that wouldn’t look out of place on a Pilbara dump truck, and a subterranean centre of gravity, he is hard to budge.  I can’t recall seeing a stronger player over the ball this season.

The Hoff has the whistle, along with an all-Australian support team (Murphy/Leckie/Smith), and they will have a better understanding of Latu’s capabilities than have recent referees, especially Marius van der Westhuizen, who controlled the Crusaders match. Which way the whistled arm points could prove crucial in this battle.

The battle of the 10s will also be critical. Any South African team led around the park by a Cronje is worth a punt, but Foley, when he has played, has shown that his class, skill, leadership and decision making, is world class.

Cronje, despite some good stats, still lacks plenty. His defence is Cooper-esque, and he goes missing too often and despite being captain, his leadership and decision making still need plenty of work.

As a sideshow, the scrumhalf battle should be a ripper too, with both Gordon and Schreuder having similar games butting heads. A Joost type against, well, a Joost type.

Jake Gordon – should have a good battle against Schreuder


These teams have met only once previously, and the Tahs could have declared at half time and enforced the follow-on – and that was in Africa. It won’t be quite that nasty this time, and the raw enthusiasm of the Kings’ youth will see them sneak some surprise tries.

However, the Tahs have some real skin in this game – they need to win, they need the bonus point, they need to improve points differential and they need to play for 80.

Plus they’re at home and it should be dry, so I’d be disappointed if the Tahs didn’t win by 40. But I have spent the season being more disappointed than not; so…..

Waratahs by 20

Chris Cloete – live wire fetcher for the Kings


1. Paddy Ryan
2. Tolu Latu
3. Tom Robertson
4. Dave McDuling
5. Will Skelton
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Rob Horne
14. Taqele Naiyaravoro
15. Israel Folau

16. Hugh Roach
17. Angus Ta’avao
18. Davis Lolohea
19. Dean Mumm
20. Jed Holloway
21. Nick Phipps
22. Bryce Hegarty
23. Harry Jones


1. Justin Forwood
2. Michael Willemse
3. Ross Geldenhuys
4. Irne Herbst
5. Wilhelm van der Sluys
6. Chris Cloete
7. Tyler Paul
8. Andisa Ntsila
9. Louis Schreuder
10. Lionel Cronje (c)
11. Makazole Mapimpi
12. Luzuko Vulindlu
13. Berton Klaasen
14. Wandile Wjekevu
15. Masixole Banda

16. Kurt Haupt
17. Schalk van der Merwe
18. Dayan van der Westhuizen
19. Mzwanele Zito
20. R. Lerm/M. Bezuidenhout
21. Johan Steyn
22. Stokkies Hanekom
23. Pieter-Steyn de Wet

Match Details

Date: Friday, 21 April 2017

Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Kick-off: 7:45 pm AEST

Referee: Rohann Hoffman (Aus)

Assistant referees:
Damon Murphy (Aus), James Leckie (Aus)

TMO: Ian Smith (Aus)

* Data used courtesy of Opta Sports

  • Bay35Pablo

    Nice write up.
    Here’s hoping we don’t end up with a Cheetahs scenario. Losing and booing the Tahs at the end. Poor Burkey will be in tears again ….
    We should sh!t this one in, but have been so up and down this year it may well be heart in mouth time.

    • Lee Grant

      Yeah the Tahs have been schizos this year.

      Maybe a hypnotist can convince them that they are down 25 points before they run on.

      • Xaviera

        Or cunningly delay the start of the match by about 50 minutes, and pretend it’s the second half already.

  • Nutta

    Some really good thoughts

    For me, if the tarts decide to kick in a targeted and tight manner and if they tackle then they will smash the Kings. If they don’t then the Kings will take it.

    The Kings won’t win it – it’s more up to the Tarts to decide if they want to win or lose.

    • Xaviera

      Defensive patterns, especially due to their own turnovers, have cost the Tahs plenty this season, and Dean Mumm has missed more than his fair share, which is probably why he’s on the bench.

      I agree – it’s really up to the Tahs and their mindset. We’ll know soon enough.

  • SuckerForRed

    “Head Coach Gibson has said he’s trying to put his best seven backs on the paddock, and then find a place for them, which partly explains the recent regular changes to the backs—plus trying to work out the optimal position for Folau: a solution which lacks unanimity across the Australian rugby landscape.”
    Part of me understands this line of thinking but part of me gets as frustrated as sh!t watching it happen. Pick the best player for that position. Izzy is your best fullback. Pick him there. Cause 9/10 sure as sh!t he is not better that your best 13.

    • Xaviera

      Which, of course, is exactly what he has done. He’s the sort of player who you have to have on the paddock somewhere, but at the moment, the question is where? Not just for the Tahs either but also the Wallabies. is he our best 15? In the classical sense, probably not – DHP is better. Is he one of our two best wingers? Probably not – we have a handful of Fijians who may well fill those roles. Is he our best 13? Kerevi and Kuridrani would argue that. Is he our best 12? He’s never played there, so who knows? Kafe wants him there, but he’s not really a 12 is he? That said, we’re a bit light on for 12s at the moment, which may be where Kurtley finds his new home. He’s not a 10 or 9, so where do you put him? It’s a real conundrum. If he was on fire irrespective of position, it would be easy, but he’s not. Very much a watching brief.

      • Dorothy Ball

        “He’s the sort of player who you have to have on the paddock somewhere, but at the moment, the question is where?”

        Same could be said of Hooper, esp at test level as KRL regularly notes.

        • Xaviera

          That becomes an issue of backrow balance, and also, somewhat, who plays at hooker. With Latu at 2 and Fardy at 6, who are both strong over the ball, 7 doesn’t need to be a pure fetcher, which liberates Hooper to play his unique style. It works OK at the Tahs, but the Wallaby pack is still very much an unknown, especially given Cheika’s propensity for selection eccentricity. One of the many dilemmas for Cheika, which no doubt will result in many a discussion within the hallowed walls of GAGR.

      • Adrian

        Yes, I think he has to be somewhere.
        Thing is he’s brilliant in the air, but not great at kicking, which forces us to play a “winger” who can kick (such as DHP) when Folau is fullback.

        I’m coming around to the idea of him on the wing, where he was highly successful in League.

        That would allow DHP or, more particularly Hunt to be fullback

        • Xaviera

          Let’s not forget Izzy debuted for the Wallabies on the wing, and he did OK there. Until recently I thought he was a bit wasted on the wing, but with the emergence of DHP, and to a lesser extent the improved recent form of Hunt, wing might be the best place in terms of backline balance.

        • Adrian

          Agree 100%
          I actually think that there is a little bit of ego attached to what position a player is selected to play. Fullback is higher in the pecking order than wing.
          I think Cheika only could overcome this, by getting him to wear 11 v Fiji and (hopefully) handing him a few tries

        • Xaviera

          Yes – that’s a good option. The ego thing may be an issue for some, but my interactions with Izzy suggest he would be happy playing anywhere. A lot of players say that, but I genuinely believe that of him.

    • Braveheart81

      He only went back to 13 last game because Horne was withdrawn through injury. Gibson definitely wants him playing 15 now. I agree it didn’t work well with Folau at 13 early in the season. We’ve got lots of back three options though and few decent options for 13 so if Horne isn’t there, I do think it is a better team with Folau at 13.

      • SuckerForRed

        And this whole discussion proves my point. For the Wallabies should we not be picking the best players for the position?
        In my opinion – Hooper & Beale are ideal bench players. They can cover a number of positions and their speed against tiring defence is an advantage. Also Hooper’s energizer bunny attitude tends to lift the players around him. Nothing to be sneezed at 70 mins into a battle to the death with the All blacks.
        Folau I think is just not in any sort of form at the moment. Again, IMO, his best position is fullback. Is he better than DHP? This year – maybe not. Is he better than our other options on the wing? I don’t know. I guess it depends on what we are looking for.
        But my point still stands – Is he the best out & out in any position? From the comments above I feel for this year at least we can agree no. At least in a Wallaby context. In a Waratah context he needs to run on at 15.

        • Braveheart81

          I think it is different for the Wallabies and players should be moved around far less. At Super Rugby level getting your best players on the field is more important because the drop off to the remaining players in your squad (particularly with injuries) is likely to be higher.

          I agree that Folau needs to play 15 for the Waratahs and hopefully he stays there. I still stand by the fact that it was better moving him to 13 with Horne out injured with the options they had available to fill the backline.

          I disagree that Hooper is an ideal bench player. His fitness and ability to go hard for 80 minutes is one of his best attributes. I think he is the obvious choice to play 7 for the Wallabies with Pocock not available this season. Comments in some places that Alcock should play 7 for the Wallabies are fantasy land stuff.

          Beale is a good bench option because he has that creative spark that can crack open a game in the second half but I tend to think he’s likely to be in our best backline this season given his form.

        • Xaviera

          I agree BH. Hooper’s competitive advantage is ability to play a high intensity match week after week for 80 minutes. As Daryl said to me recently, if he had 15 Hoopers, he wouldn’t have any problems. He’s a unique player and therefore he needs to be in the team. KB is more suited to the bench given his adaptability, but given the paucity of depth at 12 (sorry, but Godwin is WAY off the pace still), KB’s a real chance as a run-on there. Folau is a bit more problematic, as I’ve already said above. Looking foward to seeing how he goes tonight with some front foot ball and some space. From memory, in their only previous meeting, he grabbed a hat-trick, so the benchmark has been set!

  • “With a rear-end diff that wouldn’t look out of place on a Pilbara dump truck, and a subterranean centre of gravity,”

    Hands down the best piece of rugby writing this year. I dips me lid.

    • Xaviera

      Cheers Hawko. High praise indeed.

  • mikado

    “[Cronje’s] defence is Cooper-esque.”

    Quade Cooper should sue. Cronje’s defence is non-existent.

    • SuckerForRed

      And his performance over the alledged contact with his head was just……….. unbelievable. He deserves a Rassy for that.

      • Xaviera

        One word: soccer.

        He then miraculously recovered. It’s a miracle.

  • Owen McCaffrey

    The Force only just beat the Kings and the Waratahs never walloped the Force. There were a lot of ways you could have sliced an onion but 20 point head start to the tahs was very generous.

    I see a lot of looking down on teams like the Kings and Force like people wanna just move on without them. They are very good rugby teams. The Kings last year had at least 8 players get new contracts in Europe and Japan based on their Super performances. They kept the Champion Hurricanes to within 5 points for 60min in Wellington with a couple of brilliant tries and eis did not lose by a blowout. A lot more than I can say for a certain Australian team tonight.

    Let’s get a bit of perspective.

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