Preview: Waratahs v Stormers - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Preview: Waratahs v Stormers

Preview: Waratahs v Stormers

At the start of the season its very hard to say much about the teams because we haven’t seen much of them. The Stormers got their first round away last week, with a win against the Jaguares, but they didn’t look that swish. Carefully analysing the last trial, the Waratahs didn’t look that swish either, despite their big win over the Rebels.


This is the Waratahs, so its really important because at the first sign of rain or humidity the Waratahs are infected by knock-on syndrome. That means a Stormers scrum with the feed and that’s likely to generate a three point deluge. The forecast is iffy – 50% chance of rain, but only 1-5mm. A light noreaster blowing and night time humidity forecast to be 53%, so maybe the rain will be gone by 7:40 pm.




Gibson has made some left-field selections for this game against a big Stormers pack, where one would think the most powerful pack available would be selected.

  • Paddy Ryan is at tight head and Tom Robertson at loose head. This does not bode well for the scrum. Kepu is back next week.
  • Damian Fitzpatrick has been chosen at hooker with Hugh Roach on the bench. Tolu Latu is out of the 23.
  • Simmons and Staniforth are the first choice locks, but Palmer has come from nowhere to take the bench and will debut if he gets on.
  • Ned Hanigan and Michael Wells join Michael Hooper in a very lightweight backrow.
  • Phipps is still out with a calf injury, so Gordon will start with Short to come off the bench for his debut.
  • Lalaki Foketi makes his Waratah debut at 13 after good form in the trials, pushing Curtis Rona to the wing. Both are Waratah debutants.
  • Very surprisingly Kellaway makes the other wing with Newsome on the bench. Naiyaravoro is out of the 23 despite his outstanding trials form. Maybe he hasn’t lost the last 3kg Gibson wanted him to.


  • The front row of Louw, Samuels and Kitshoff looks ominous.
  • Pieter-Steph du Toit is back from injury and will start at lock. Kobus van Dyk drops back to 6, with Notshe on the bench.
  • Whiz kid Damian Willemse has his second start at 10. He played very well in the open last week and kicked well from the tee.
  • SP Marais goes to 15, with Leyds going to the wing. Their back three will present a threat.
  • Fortunately for the Waratahs, Seabelo Senatla is being rested because of his workload in the sevens. He is lightening quick and would make 10 metres on Kellaway over 50.


The Stormers will aim to do three things: Destroy the scrum, hit as hard as they can on offense and defence, and keep a very good defensive structure across the park.

The Waratahs will have to aim to break even in the forwards and unleash their backs at every opportunity. They will have to win with guile, they can’t overpower their opposition.

We’ve got a really good referee in Angus Gardner first up. I don’t think either side will be too fussed with adjudication issues.


This is not a game to bet your house on. The weather, Stormers defensive abilities, Waratahs first game of the season all combine to make it a really hard pick from this week’s matches. I’m going to stick my neck out and forecast Stormers by 7, but there’s such a high level of risk with that, it could blow out either way by 20.



1. Tom Robertson
2. Damian Fitzpatrick
3. Paddy Ryan
4. Tom Staniforth
5. Rob Simmons
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Curtis Rona
12 Kurtley Beale
13. Lalaki Foketi
14. Andrew Kellaway
15. Israel Folau
16. Hugh Roach
17. Harry Johnson-Holmes
18. Shambeckler Vui
19. Nick Palmer
20. Jed Holloway
21. Mitch Short
22. Bryce Hegarty
23. Alex Newsome

1. Steven Kitshoff
2. Ramone Samuels
3. Wilco Louw
4. JD Schickerling
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
6. Siya Kolisi (c)
7. Kobus van Dyke
8. Nizaam Carr
9. Dewaldt Duvenage
10. Damien Willemse
11. Raymond Rhule
12. Damien de Allende
13. JJ Englebrecht
14. Dillyn Leyds
15. SP Marais
16. Dean Muir
17. Janse van Rensburg
18. Carlu Sadie
19. Chris van Zyl
20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
21. Justin Phillips
22. George Whitehead
23. EW Viljoen

Match : Waratahs vs Stormers
Date : Saturday 24th February, 2018
Venue : Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick Off: 1940 AEDT
Referee: Angus Gardiner

  • Jason

    Stormers are going to eat the Waratahs alive!

  • Andy

    Hate to sound overly pessimistic but I’m not expecting a great deal from this team. The forwards look lightweight and soft especially our front row. Missing Kepu is a big loss but the non selection of Latu is a real head scratcher. For me, he’s the only international quality front rower available. The others are barely SRugby compliant.

    Agree that the selection on the wings is strange as well.

    Stormers forward dominance to win the match. At least by 10. Hope I’m very wrong

    • Braveheart81

      I think they are trying to get Latu back to full fitness after he had surgery in the off season.

      • Nutta

        They will need to do fair enough

      • Andy

        Hope you are right but that’s not the vibe I got from Gibson’s comments.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice writeup Hawko, if a tad pessimistic. I think if the Tahs go for a high tempo game they could run the Stormers off their feet. Not sure they’ll get enough ball to be successful at it. Gibson’s defense will be tested for sure. This could be a good game. Im picking the Stormers in a close game less than 10

    • Ed

      I will like to see how the Tahs defensive line goes this season:
      “We’re defending with the number on our back this year, we’re not mixing people up and putting them in different spots,” Gibson said.
      If the above occurs, this could be good for the Wallabies though Grey may have either ideas.

      The problem with this up-tempo game is the opposition will know it is coming and attempt to attack the Tahs around the rucks, as many teams will see the NSW pack as light. The kiwi sides will have two months to assess the Tahs defence and work out where the defensive weaknesses are. (Yes, they will look at other teams beforehand.)

  • jay-c

    Up with the least inspiring front rows, nay front fives I’ve seen.
    Must be one of the physically weakest packs the tahs have ever named.
    Against a SA pack, god help us.

  • idiot savant

    Nice argument Hawko. Youre right the Tahs pack looks soft on paper. Im hoping that the bench gets on early because I think what they lack in experience they might make up in ability. The Tahs backline though has real strike power and if Foley, Beale and Folau get enough quality ball they should beat the Stormers.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Robertson and Ryan vs Kitshoff and Louw.

    Simmons and Staniforth vs Schickerling and du Toit..

    Hanigan and Wells vs van Dyke and Carr…

    Could be an extremely long night for the Tahs.

    • Pedro


  • Adrian

    I have been tipping a revitalised Tahs in 2018, but I must say that the absences of Latu and big Naiyaravoro is a major worry to me.

    This seems to suggest attitude issues!

    I hope I’m wrong

    • Braveheart81

      Naiyaravoro missed the last trial a week ago through injury. Maybe he is still crocked?

      • Gibson says he was available for selection but they went with Fitzy and Cockroach.

        • Braveheart81

          I guess the interesting thing will be if the omissions of Latu and Naiyaravoro continue once they have been fit longer. Currently it could be that they’re available for selection but both are underdone.

  • Huw Tindall

    Unfortunately it’s looking a bit like last year – lightweight pack can secure decent clean ball for the talented backs. Looking at this pack I say…
    – Really missing Kepu. Think he is back next week after doing time for his red card in the Scotland debacle at the end of last year.
    – Could do with a big unit like Coleman or Lukan Tui to add some weight to what looks like a very mobile pack but light on dominant forward runners and big clean outs.
    – What happened to Tolu Latu? Seems to have fallen from favour after some top flight games first half on 2017.

  • Braveheart81

    The Tahs lightweight backrow is bigger than the Stormers backrow. I reckon the Tahs will win this one but it will be pretty close. Tahs by 7.

    • Mica

      A brave prediction Braveheart – good to see you are true to your moniker.
      I hope you are right, but I am almost certain you’re not. :)

      • Braveheart81

        I just think people are wildly overestimating that Stormers forward pack. Pieter-Steph du Toit is clearly world class but Schickerling is a newbie and whilst he was very good last week, I’m not convinced he’ll back that up with the travel. Simmons will get the job done and Staniforth will have a point to show that he deserves a starting spot all season.

        The Stormers props are formidable and the major job for the Tahs front row will be not to get demolished at scrum time. If they can avoid giving away a ton of penalties and yellow cards there they’ll have done their job. I don’t rate Samuels and think Fitzpatrick is at least as good as him. The backrows are fairly even. Hooper is the standout backrower from either side.

        The negativity towards the Tahs seems to result in people rating a reasonable Stormers pack as if it is full of absolute superstars.

        • Mica

          I’d say PSdT, Kolisi, Kitshoff are world class. I can see a world of hurt for the pack every time the Tahs drop the ball and based on recent form this could happen a bit. I will be supporting the Tahs, just my head says they’re in trouble when comparing the line ups

        • Huw Tindall

          Fair comments but I think Tahs fans are just so pessimistic now and it’ll take a few good results to turn that around.

          In saying that, and looking objectively at the Tahs pack, if even just Kepu was in the starting line up I’d feel more comfortable. As it is the pack, besides, Hooper, doesn’t really have any threats. Some great experience in Simmons and potential talent in Robinson and Hanigan but potential doesn’t win matches.

        • Huw Tindall

          Fair comments but I think Tahs fans are just so pessimistic now and it’ll take a few good results to turn that around.

          In saying that, and looking objectively at the Tahs pack, if even just Kepu was in the starting line up I’d feel more comfortable. As it is the pack, besides, Hooper, doesn’t really have any threats. Some great experience in Simmons and potential talent in Robinson and Hanigan but potential doesn’t win matches.

  • Pedro

    Yeah, the tight five is a bit of a worry for the tahs. It’s not terrible, but has a few question marks around it.

  • Mica

    Possibly the worst front row I have seen in Super Rugby other than the time the whole Reds pack got injured and they had to look to club Rugby. Is this an admission that Robertson is not up to anchoring a scrum (yet – he does have time on his hands)?

  • Braveheart81

    If people think the Stormers are so obviously going to win, I suggest talking to your bookie. They are paying over $3.

    If the Tahs play like they did through 2017 they will lose. I’m expecting them to be substantially better than that though. I reckon the pessimism towards the Tahs from the fans though is at an all time high judging from these comments!

    • The +9.5 point line in favour of the Stormers was too good to pass up.

      • Braveheart81

        That has come in to something like 5.5 points now. I agree that the line was really good. I think I got it at 7.5 or 8.5 and also went for it. I think Tahs will win 1-12 and hopefully the result will be in the sweet spot where I win both bets.*

        *please gamble responsibly.

  • Muzz

    It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment on here that the Stormers pack would likely dominate. I’d like to see the Yamba boys in there for the Tahs with Holloway starting at 8 and Cody Walker on the bench.

  • Simon

    On team sheets alone I think the Stormers should have this, but they are notoriously bad travellers. They will really benefit from the addition of du Toit and SP Marais, and Willemse looks the goods.

    In SA this would be Stormers at a canter. In Sydney, it could go either way but I think the Tahs will squeak home if the weather holds.

  • Seb V

    Hope Staniforth has a good game. Great to see him as a starter

NSW Waratahs

Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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