WITH the Waratahs’ playing gear and luggage somewhere between Cape Town and Mascot, Ewen McKenzie was contemplating a back-line switch last night, considering starting Timana Tahu in the centres against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night.
The Waratahs returned from South Africa yesterday to discover that 95 per cent of the team’s luggage had been left behind in Cape Town. For most, the only team gear they had was what they were wearing.
Uncertain when they will see their belongings again, the Waratahs are preparing to train in “mufti” today in readiness for a final-round match they must win to ensure a Super 14 semi-final berth. NSW team management was trying to make a joke of it all last night, but many were still annoyed that another South African trip had ended in disarray.
Several years ago following the same trip, they discovered on arrival in Sydney that some gear had gone missing, several bags had been ripped open, and even copies of the Waratahs’ game plan were spotted going around and around the luggage carousel. This time, nothing appeared.
Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie, who has grown used to unexpected developments this season – including his contract not being renewed – said the team would get over this hiccup.
“This competition is all about adapting,” McKenzie said. “So if we haven’t got any training gear tomorrow we’ll find something else to train in. We’ll make the best of it. Everything you think of is back in South Africa – boots, gear, training bags, strapping, walkie-talkies, the whole lot. We might have a back-to-club-training-gear day, and see whether everyone can produce their old club jumpers. Or even wear your old school footy jersey. I’m sure we’ll get a laugh out of it tomorrow.”
Yet there will be a serious tone to this afternoon’s training as McKenzie deliberates over whether to tinker with his back line after Tahu played with poise at outside-centre when he replaced the 18-year-old Rob Horne for the final 15 minutes of the Stormers match on Saturday night, which ended in a 13-13 draw.
Tahu’s big-game experience from a lengthy rugby league career that culminated in him becoming a Kangaroo will work in his favour, as the Suncorp Stadium match will be easily the most tense encounter the Waratahs have had this year. A semi-final and a potential home semi-final hinge on this game, and McKenzie could easily be swayed to include Tahu.
McKenzie gave enough hints that Tahu would be pressing for a starting spot after missing most of the season because of lingering hamstring problems.
Greg Growden – www.rugbyheaven.com.auTweet