Waratahs prop Al Baxter is pumped for the crucial role of controlling the Beast in Saturday night’s opening home game against the Sharks at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Jon Geddes writes for The Daily Telegraph that the NSW stalwart faces the task of opposing Sharks international Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira in a physical confrontation where there will be nowhere to hide, and which will play major role in determining which team finishes on top.
The 116kg Mtawarira is one of the most feared props in rugby, who is referred to in the Sharks’ media guide as a player who brings “his own brand of silent but deadly brute force” to the team.
“It’s going to be a tough day in the office for me,” Baxter said.
“This is one of the great challenges of the year.
“He is one of the form props and tore the British and Irish Lions pack apart last year, so he is a very dangerous opponent.”
Baxter said what made Mtawarira such a difficult opponent is that not only is he one of the strongest players in the competition, he is also a very good scrummager.
He said Mtawarira demonstrated that with the way he dominated England’s Phil Vickery, one of the great props in international rugby, on that Lions tour.
Baxter said the 24-year-old Beast is one of those players who lets his actions on the field speak for themselves, much like his fellow Waratahs prop Benn Robinson.
“I guess he is one of those guys who doesn’t say a huge amount but just gets the job done,” Baxter said. “I don’t think you have to be lippy to be a good prop.”
And he said that when facing a player such as the Beast, the mental preparation was just as important as the physical in the build-up to what will be real battle of attrition.
“And making sure you get the consistency right,” Baxter said.
“He is the kind of guy when you are doing well for nine out of 10 scrums, it’s on the 10th scrum when you do slip up that he will really punish you.”
Far from being intimidated by Saturday’s game, Baxter is looking forward to the clash, saying this was the type of game the Waratahs forwards really get themselves up for.
“We really enjoy going against the good packs and this is certainly one of the better packs,” he said.
“Essentially they have pretty much a whole Springbok pack, so it’s going to be tough. We had a great battle with them over in Durban and we expect much the same this year.”
The Waratahs can take some confidence from the fact they beat the Sharks 16-12 last season in Durban. “We had a bit of success against those guys late in the game last year, which we hope to be able to do again,” Baxter said.
So far this season he has rated the performance of the Waratahs pack solid but not exceptional.
“We haven’t achieved the high standards we place upon ourselves,” he said.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is expected to be fit after suffering a hamstring injury against the Bulls, which will be a boost to NSW.Tweet