Sport NSW Waratahs set sights on miracle win
Dismantling of Waratahs shows another layer to the Rebels
As Matt Toomua ran in one of the best individual tries of Super Rugby AU and of Australian rugby more broadly over the last few seasons on Friday night, it occurred to me that in 2021 there is a lot more to the Melbourne Rebels than first appeared in their opening game of the year. If you think back to their very pragmatic, very deliberate game plan to nullify the Queensland Reds in Round 2, and then think about their displays since then and particularly in Melbourne against the Waratahs, you realise that they have suddenly become one of the more adaptable Australian sides in recent memory.
The NSW Waratahs maintain they can pull off a sporting miracle and break their season duck in one of the Super Rugby AU club's most turbulent weeks in history.
The winless Waratahs are given next to no chance when they host the defending champion Brumbies at the SCG on Friday night.
Reeling in turmoil following last Sunday's dramatic sacking of coach Rob Penney following three record defeats in five outings in 2021, the Waratahs are rated 10-1 long shots in a two-team race.
But returning skipper Jake Gordon defiantly insists the end goal must be to win despite the enormous odds stacked against them.
Winless Waratahs swing axe for grudge match
The Brumbies have a new captain to host the Force while Waratahs coach Rob Penney has rung the changes against the high flying Reds. And in Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Highlanders will unleash a Japanese Test star against a struggling Hurricanes side that welcomes back Dane Coles.SUPER RUGBY AU, ROUND SIXBRUMBIES vs FORCE, Friday 7.45pm AEDT at GIO StadiumThe Brumbies will have another new captain for their clash with the Force, as halfback Nic White steps up to lead the side in the absence of Tom Cusack.
"We have to focus on our process to get there but we've got some tools in place that can benefit us and we think being professional athletes and competitive, we're there to win," Gordon said after Thursday's captain's run.
"We've got a great plan this week around how we're going to nullify their attacking opportunities.
"We know they've got a really strong set piece, a very big forward pack.
"Lennie (Ikitau) and Irae (Simone) are doing a really good job in the centres and they've got obviously Tom Wright back out wide.
"So great coverage across the field but we have a few tricks in there to I guess nullify their set piece."
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Waratahs facing all-time Super Rugby low
Waratahs coach Rob Penney says the NSW Rugby board needs to recruit strategically for the ailing Super Rugby franchise to dig itself out of a deepening hole.The Waratahs face the grim - and increasingly likely - prospect of becoming the first Australian team in 25 years of Super Rugby to endure a winless season.
Gordon, who hasn't played since suffering a high-ankle injury in round one, conceded Penney's axing was a shock to the entire Waratahs system.
"It's a reality check for everybody here," he said.
"In a high-performance environment, you're never really safe and results dictate your future.
"It's unlucky that it's happened to Rob but it's a reality check to the group that performance is the No.1 (priority) here."
Gordon also confessed to being bewildered by the Tahs' abject start to the season, despite the franchise enduring a mass exodus of senior players and a wretched run with injury.
"It's been hard," the halfback said.
"If you'd asked me at the start of the year, I wouldn't have expected this to happen.
"It has been very hard to watch."
Gordon said he knew he had fully recovered from his syndesmosis after getting through a hearty contact session on Tuesday.
"The biggest thing is tackling in the same position and it felt really good so I'm ready to go," he said.
"I'm rehabbed. Some are a lot harder (sessions) than the training sessions. I've been doing a lot of conditioning so I'm in fairly good nick."
Rising Aussie powerhouse threatening Crusaders .
Forget what you think you know, because both Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa threw up some major surprises over Easter.