Waratahs sweating on Kurtley Beale’s fitness

The Waratahs are sweating on whether or not Kurtley Beale will be able to play in their Super Rugby Semi-final against the Highlanders in Sydney.

Beale had to withdraw from the Waratahs team to play the Reds after injuring his quadriceps in the warm up and was missed in the match.

The Wallaby utility back missed Waratahs training on Tuesday and coach Daryl Gibson has admitted that “time is against us” in relation to Beale’s injury.

Winger Rob Horne also missed the training session but he is expected to recover in time to play in Saturday’s knockout clash at Allianz Stadium.

Gibson says that they will give Beale until Thursday to prove his fitness but in case he fails they are preparing utility back Matt Carraro to step in as he did against the Reds.

“(Beale’s been) doing his exercises and getting up to a running pace that enables him to at least have a crack on Thursday to see if he can make it,” Gibson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“At the time, it was a two- to three-week injury, and obviously time is against us. He’s going to give it a go, and if he comes through that then he’ll be available.”

The Waratahs will have home advantage as they finished second in the standings as they were the top Australian team even though the Highlanders finished with one point more than the Sydney side who finished in fourth place due to the quirks of the conference system.

When asked whether that made the Waratahs the underdogs in the match Gibson said that have been underdogs “all year”.

“We’ve fought our way to this point, we’ve earned our way here, and in doing that we’ve earned a home semi-final. “

“With that comes some advantage, but certainly, on the balance between the two teams, we’ve got two teams playing very well, playing each other,” he said.

Gibson pointed out that the natural order of the teams was shown when South African conference winners the Stormers were beaten by the Brumbies who finished two points ahead of the Cape Town side.

“The top two New Zealand teams deserve their top two places and whatever you can say about the conference system, it is what it is, and it was proved last week when the Brumbies outplayed the Stormers and won their way through,” Gibson said.

“The good thing for Australia is you have two teams in the semi-finals. It’s proof that the conference here is very vibrant and very competitive.”

“If anything, the detractors of the Australian conference should really take a good look at that.”

The Waratahs lost their regular season match against the Highlanders in Dunedin 26-19 but this week the Waratahs will have home advantage.

“They are a very impressive team, they play a high-speed, high-tempo game, they have plenty of threats, and I think (halfback) Aaron Smith is playing some of the best rugby of his career,” Gibson said.

“Across the field they pose a lot of danger, so it’s going to be a difficult game for us. I think we need to try to put the brakes on them, try to slow them down, and try to dictate the tempo for the game that we want to play.”

The Highlanders have an underrated forward pack with a highly effective scrum and set piece which prop Benn Robinson says is allowing Smith to set up their attack.

“If you look at the previous three or four games they’ve got a very solid pack, with a lot of really solid individual players who work really hard,” Robinson said.

“If you’ve got a pack working well and a player like Aaron Smith working on the back of it – he was dynamic on the weekend, (he) set up plenty of tries on the back of their set piece.”

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