McKenzie in ‘cloak and dagger’ selection

Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has taken note of Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus’ penchant for naming one team and fielding another and has now decided to “get into the spirit of things”.


McKenzie has named a 22-man squad for his team’s Super 14 Round Three encounter with the Cheetahs in Kimberley on Saturday. However, McKenzie says he’ll wait until the last minute to finalise his starting XV.


This, according to McKenzie, is in response to the ploy used by Erasmus whereby he names a starting XV in midweek, but that starting XV is seldom the one that takes to the field.


In the first two weeks – against the Stormers in Bloemfontein and the Bulls in Pretoria – Erasmus made “late” changes to his starting XV. The most notable of these were Springbok Kabamba Floors being named to start, only for Ryno van der Merwe to run out on the number eight jersey.


It is hard to believe the players don’t know who will start, or that Erasmus definitely made the changes just before kick-off.


And McKenzie is clearly also not buying that ploy.


But he feels he is entitled to play some games of his own.


“I don’t normally leave it until late, but it seems to be the done thing over here [in South Africa] so I’m just trying to get into the spirit of things,” McKenzie said from the team’s base in Kimberley.


“We’ll be confirming the starting XV at the last possible moment.”


There are some changes to the squad of 22, named by McKenzie.


Prop Jeremy Tilse is set to make his Super 14 debut, after replacing Aaron Broughton-Rouse is the 22-man squad.


“The scrum is going to be pretty huge for me on my debut,” said Tilse.


“The Cheetahs are well renowned for their scrummaging, but I believe I ready to take the step.”


Lock Dean Mumm’s impressive form off the bench against the Sharks has widened the selection options for McKenzie.


“It was great to get a bit of game time last weekend against the Sharks and have some sort of impact when I came on was very satisfying,” said Mumm.


“There’s been an acceleration in my selection for sure but I’m going to make full use of the opportunity.”


The only other change to the 22-man squad that played the Sharks last weekend is Tim Davidson for Beau Robinson in the back row.


“We’ve got a few long term projects getting an earlier start than expected but they’re doing a great job handling the increased pressure,” added McKenzie.


“Everyone seems a bit fresher up here in Kimberley and I’m certain we’ll put in an improved performance against the Cheetahs.”


Dropping out of 22 are Beau Robinson and Aaron Broughton-Rouse


Some reports in the Australian media suggested that Morgan Turinui is set to be axed from the starting XV, with Kurtley Beale set to start at fly-half.


However, McKenzie was not prepared to reveal his hand.


“I’m not going to rule Kurtley or anyone else in or out,” he said.


Reports from the Waratahs’ training session in Kimberley on Tuesday suggested there could be up to five changes to the Waratahs’ starting XV, following their 22-9 loss to the Sharks last week.


Beale is poised to replace Daniel Halangahu, but the big surprise could be out wider – with Sam Harris and Ben Jacobs set to be the new centre pairing.


Against the Sharks Jacobs played inside centre and Turinui at outside centre. But reports in the Australian media suggested that Sam Harris will take over at number 12, with Jacobs shifting out one spot to squeeze Turinui to the bench.


Other expected changes include Brett Sheehan for Josh Valentine at scrum-half and Dean Mumm at lock for Ben Hand.


Waratahs squad:


Forwards: Al Baxter, Will Caldwell, Tim Davidson, Rocky Elsom, Adam Freier, Ben Hand, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Jeremy Tilse, Phil Waugh.


Backs: Kurtley Beale, Daniel Hal

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