This is my final Super 15 2011 preview, many long nights of writing has eventually come to an end, this is the last of the teams as I give my thoughts on the Waratahs, can they have yet another excellent Super Rugby season…
After finishing third last season, and managing to get to the finals was some achievement for the Waratahs. Even though they got thrashed by The Stormers in the Semi Finals, a season of great rugby shouldn’t be forgotten. The Waratahs should be full of confidence going into the new format, the Australian conference will be tough but it’s one that their expected to win. The Reds and The Brumbies are two very good sides, but if the Reds fail to match the potential they showed last season, and the Brumbies get hit with injuries to players like Ashley-Cooper and Giteau, then the path will definitely look rosy in the Waratahs view.
Coach Chris Hickey has done a unbelievable job with the Waratahs so far, guiding them to respectable finishes in his first two managerial campaigns. He hasn’t had to deal with any losses for the season ahead, but he has gained an extra head in centre Ryan Cross who joins the side from the Western Force. The Waratahs open up against the unknown quantity of the Rebels, a team I wouldn’t underestimate as they have very good players such as Greg Somerville and the golden boldie in Stirling Mortlock. The Waratahs are a very dangerous side though, as they will be hoping to top the Australian conference and move onto the finals.
The Waratahs have very good players all over the field, but it’s in the backs where they have real quality. The forwards are not the strongest around, even though the front three could be pretty sweet as Al Baxter, Benn Robinson and Tatafu Polota-Nau make up a strong unit. Moving back to the backs though and a half back pairing of Luke Burgess and Berrick Barnes could be ever so dangerous, even with the back up at 9 and 10, Josh Holmes and Dan Halangahu are very good talents.
Not going into detail on the highly prolific Berrick Barnes, as in my view a young 21 year old in the name of Rob Horne, could be the main source of attraction this season. The highly rated centre has the Rugby world at his feet at the moment, already capped by the Australian national side, Horne has a very bright future, he is a very solid runner and he has very quick feet, fans best watch out for this kid in 2011. On the wing and at full-back the Waratahs are ever so dangerous, with Drew Mitchell, Lachie Turner and Kurtley Beale in the side you can wonder why the Waratahs were such a force in 2010. Mitchell had an amazing try scoring season, his quality pace and finishing is up there with the very best at the moment, while Beale at full-back has now found his feet at a great club, he has brilliant kicking skills and he creates all sorts of chances for his team mates when on the ball.
The Waratahs could well top the Australian conference, ahead of dangerous teams like the Brumbies and the Reds. All three are very good sides, but the way the Waratahs performed last season under coach Chris Hickey, they could well match the same credentials again. Drew Mitchell is the key source this season, and with Berrick Barnes being able to play in two positions, the side from Australia have two world class players who are at the top of their game at the moment, The Super 15 crown is a huge possibility.