Waugh: 'Tahs can be champs

2009-01-13 08:38
We can win the Super 14 (File)
Sydney - Waratahs' captain Phil Waugh is adamant his team can mount another strong and legitimate Super 14 title challenge despite losing several big name forwards.

According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), Wallabies flank Waugh, who is about to embark on his 10th Super campaign, also believes the cluster of promising Waratahs backs will benefit from last year's run to the tournament final.

The last handful of Wallabies to resume training returned to the Waratahs on Tuesday, with props Al Baxter and Benn Robinson subjected to some technical work on scrummaging by new Waratahs assistant coach and former Wallabies set-piece guru Michael Foley.

The Waratahs have twice finished as losing finalists in Waugh's time with the franchise.

Winning a Super title remains a major goal for the 29-year-old openside flank, despite the departures overseas of Test forwards Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom and David Lyons, plus the unavailability of prop Matt Dunning to a season-ending Achilles injury.

"Obviously (without) Vicks, Rocky and Lyno, we lose a bit of experience," Waugh said.

"But at the same time the backs have got a year under their belt and the experience of playing in the final last year and playing some pressure games hopefully will hold us in good stead going into the end of games this year."

Exciting youngsters like winger-fullback Lachie Turner, 21, flyhalf Kurtley Beale, 20, and centre Rob Horne, 19, are among the emerging backs Waugh was talking about.

While they are still all in the early stages of their careers and younger forwards will replace the departing stars, Waugh denied the Waratahs were going through a transitional phase.

"I think there has been a transition with the older guys leaving over the last period of time and a lot of the guys that will be playing this year have played a lot of football at Super level, so I don't think it's a transition," Waugh said.

"We are not going into the competition to make up the numbers, it's a very strong squad.

"It's just a matter of keeping everyone fit and on the park."

A totally pragmatic Waugh isn't fussed about what style of play new coach Chris Hickey will employ this year.

"At the end of the day it's about winning games, whatever style is going to win you games," Waugh said.

"It might be expansive, it might be tight, it's about winning and performing.

"At the end of the day you can play the most expansive style of rugby, but if you're not winning games it's no good to anyone."

Off-contract at the end of this year, Waugh hopes to decide his future within the next couple of months.

He said he loved playing for NSW and Australia and living in Sydney, but would weigh his options and decide what was best for his family and "for life in general".

Meanwhile, giant Waratahs wing recruit Ratu Nasiganiyavi is likely to sidelined for at least two months after scans revealed a stress fracture of his left ankle.

Nasiganiyavi is the fourth member of the NSW squad ruled out for a lengthy period following Wallabies props Dunning and Sekope Kepu and outside back Ben Batger.


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