From altitude to humidity for ‘Tahs

Having successfully dealt with the Lions and the high altitude of Johannesburg, the Waratahs are now looking for ways to deal with the more taxing task of beating the Sharks in the depressing humidity of Durban.

The Waratahs, one of the pre-tournament favourites, came up with a pretty novel idea when coach Ewen McKenzie delayed their arrival in South Africa till two days before the game – a gamble that had the team’s mentor pretty worried.

But his gamble paid off and they walked away with a 25-16 win against a spirited pride of Lions last Friday. And the plan has the full endorsed of the players.

“I was nervous because my … was on the line,” McKenzie said. “If we bombed out everyone would be bagging me for the rest of my life about taking the team there [Johannesburg] so late. I was chewing my fingernails off well before the game. So I was happy to get through that.

“The travel plan was six months in the making, but it would have meant nothing without the commitment of the players to see it through,” McKenzie said in Durban.

“We had an outstanding response from the players’ post-game feedback forms which indicate a high state of well-being which is unusual for this time of the year. Of course the most important stat is the win.”

Lock Will Caldwell echoed the thoughts of his head coach.

“We had a great beach training session here in Durban and the boys are in high spirits,” said Caldwell.

“I was blowing a bit in the last 10 minutes of the match against the Lions but I got through it quite well fitness-wise and that’s been reported widely by the squad.”

But that was only the first leg of a three-match tour – which include encounters with the Sharks in Durban and Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the next fortnight – the two most impressive South African sides in the First Round.

The Waratahs were in Durban on Saturday, less than 24 hours after beating the Lions, watching the Sharks beat the Bulls 17-3 in the heat and humidity of the coastal city.

Star flank Rocky Elsom admitted that the humidity would be just as big a challenge as the altitude was in Johannesburg.

“It is always difficult to play there, because it is so hot and humid,” Elsom said. “It is fairly hot at home [in Sydney], but it won’t prepare us fully for what we will experience [in Durban.”

Waratahs captain Phil Waugh also acknowledged the Challenge the Sharks will present. He said the team was not entirely happy with the quality of their play against the Lions.

“It is tough coming out here for the first hit-out and we only had two days in Johannesburg, so it was good to get away with a win,” Waugh said.

“But I’m still a little disappointed. We could have played with a little more control, try to get the bonus point in the end. Still, we have four points, which is pretty good on the road.

“We’ve got sevens days now before the Sharks. The guys will adapt a bit more and hopefully get some more points.”

McKenzie also spoke of the challenge posed by the Sharks.

“Our three match tour is one down and we know we’re facing a formidable opponent in the Sharks on Friday night. We mean business and we’ve come here to win all three games.”

Meanwhile McKenzie revealed that Elsom may be considered for a move to the second row for enc0ounter with the Sharks.

McKenzie said he is considering the change after attending the Sharks’ win over the Bulls at the weekend.

“We’ve been talking about combinations,” the coach said.

“We came away from the game with specific thoughts about how we should play. Once we’ve worked out the strategy, we’ll look at the selection.”

The Waratahs line-up is expected to be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday.

365 Digital

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