Vodacom Super 14

Waratahs to turn other cheek

2009-04-03 06:54
Stormers hardman A.J. Venter (Gallo Images)
Sydney - The Waratahs forwards have vowed not to allow Stormers hardmen A.J. Venter and Schalk Burger - rated by many as master nigglers - to get under their skins in Saturday's Super 14 match in Sydney.

The Waratahs pack won't dare point their fingers at second-rower Venter and blindside breakaway Burger as villains. After all, doing so would foolishly risk their being seen as the provocateurs in the SFS match.

But history indicates that the Waratahs would be well advised to brace themselves for some underhanded fun and games.

They appear to have done so, with the Waratahs saying they have addressed the need to not overreact and risk giving away penalties should the Stormers get up to any antics intended to provoke them into responding irrationally.

When asked if he were worried about unfair play, Waratah Will Caldwell said: "I haven't experienced any of that." Then he added: "South Africans do at stages try to get under your skin. We won't enter into any of that niggle."

The Waratahs second-rower, on a gallant quest to provide some hard-nosed enforcement that Dan Vickerman brought the pack before heading to England, said he avoided taking the bait by focusing on his performance.

"I just try to ignore it and concentrate on my game," he said. "There are times when I do get a bit frustrated. And I know blokes like [Waratahs reserve halfback] Brett Sheehan do as well … we try to keep it at a bare minimum.

"We talk about it during the week. It's important we play our own game and stay out of all that rubbish certain teams go on with."

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said he did not "anticipate" any foul play from the Stormers, but was cognisant of the need for his players to think wisely when they responded to an opposition's seemingly untoward physical play.

"If that sort of thing occurs, it is really about keeping a focus on your game," Hickey said. "If it does become a distraction to you, you can end up paying a penalty for that. I think we are a reasonably well-disciplined team. The players don't really get sucked in to that sort of stuff."

Caldwell does not believe the absence of Vickerman, Rocky Elsom and David Lyons overseas has encouraged opposing packs to test the Waratahs forwards any more aggressively this year than in the past. He believes the progress by the Waratahs pack has invited oppositions to intensify their challenge.

"When the team has had success, [opposing] teams try and get at you a bit more, try to break your pattern of play," he said.

He said he still expected the Stormers pack, which includes five Springboks, to throw everything at them.

"Typically, they are tough up front," Caldwell said on Thursday. "They have a big frontrow. 'Schalky' is playing, so that's always interesting - his aggressive play. They always show up in the forwards particularly."

Caldwell tipped a close lineout tussle, despite the Stormers having lost one of the world's tallest second-rowers in 208-centimetre Andries Bekker to a season-ending toe fracture and ligament rupture sustained in round five.

"That will take a bit away from them, but [they are] a really strong lineout," Caldwell said. "Fairly consistent, too. They use that as one of their weapons."

He agreed the Waratahs' lineout had been inconsistent. "There is still a lot to work on," he said. "We are heading in the right direction. Consistency [in the Waratahs lineout] has probably been not as good as it should be, but we have changed the personnel, too.

"Hopefully, we can string a few games together and really build it up towards the business end of the season."

Meanwhile, the Waratahs are confident halfback Luke Burgess (cork) and outside centre Rob Horne (virus) will both be able to play on Saturday after running a full session at Waratahs training Thursday morning.

The only concerns on Thursday were precautionary. Fullback Sam Norton-Knight did not finish the team run after having his left calf muscle strapped and iced, while No.6 Ben Mowen sat out the session because of a bug.


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