Vodacom Super 14

Tahs 'back four' mix it up

2009-05-15 09:52
Lachie Turner (File)
Johannesburg - The Waratahs are planning to employ an expansive approach and roll the dice to secure a crucial bonus-point win in the final-round match against the Lions.

The Waratahs, who are seventh on 36 points, know anything less than five points against the 11th-placed Lions at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday will almost certainly end their semi-finals hopes. Even then, they will need the results from the Chiefs-Brumbies, Blues-Crusaders and Reds-Hurricanes games to go their way. However, the congestion at the top of the table is such that the Waratahs could, mathematically, still grab a home semi-final.

Regardless of the permutations, Waratahs need tries and they don't care where they come from, but backs Lachie Turner, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, and Peter Playford - as well as Sam Norton-Knight, who will come on from the bench - have pledged to step up.

The quartet have agreed to cast aside their nominated positions and numbers and hunt as a group under the moniker of the "back four", which Norton-Knight will join when he enters the fray. They plan to switch positions and combinations spontaneously throughout the game.

Turner, who as been named at fullback, said what they intend to execute against the Lions will be the culmination of all the work and progress the Waratahs' back line has made while in South Africa.

"It is something a little new to us. We have stepped out of the [officially named] positions. This is what we are now. We are no longer fullbacks, wingers and centres. We are 'the back four'," Turner said.

The concept, which the group has also nutted out privately during the week, is not just about Beale switching from 12 to fullback in defence and wingers Tuqiri and Playford and Turner readjusting their positions to cover for him. It also involves mixing positions in attack with myriad combinations.

"It is something we have really tried to develop on this tour to give us an edge," Turner said. "Hopefully that is going to be the difference between getting three tries and a scrappy game and getting four and really putting them away. It's about getting the right guys at the right positions at the right times so we have more of an attacking focus in the game. It worked really well against the Cheetahs and again against the Sharks. There were times there when Kurtley was in at 10 and then when he was further out with Pete, myself and Lote working from the wings and in tighter.

"The four positions are playing with a lot of freedom. It is up to those four to make sure whatever happens the job gets done. It doesn't matter by who, just that it gets done."

Despite talk from within the Lions camp and their coach, Eugene Eloff, that that they will try to keep the ball and run at NSW, Turner expects they will call on No.10 Andre Pretorius to use his kicking game.

"I think there will be a fair bit of kicking from the Lions. He is one of the best tactical kickers in the game in the world," Turner said. "I don't think the Lions will want to play too much down their own end."

The Lions are not short of motivation. They can finish higher than South African rivals the Stormers and Cheetahs if they win with a bonus point. They also see themselves in position to provide a service to South African rugby - keeping the Waratahs pointless will help the slim finals chances of the sixth-placed Sharks.

"The Waratahs will be a huge test, but I know that if we hang on to the ball for long periods and deny them possession we'll be in with a shout," Eloff said in Johannesburg's The Star newspaper. "We're going to have to play direct rugby and run hard at them. This match is not only important for us, but South African rugby. If we can deny the Tahs any points, we'll be doing the Bulls and Sharks a favour."

The Waratahs' chances have been boosted by the continued injury-enforced absence of the Lions' classy Springboks outside-centre Jacques Fourie. Eloff will also have to do without his inspirational captain Cobus Grobbelaar and menacing winger Henno Mentz. Erratic fullback Earl Rose has been dropped, with his place going to Louis Ludik.


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