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Waratahs bolstered for SA trip

Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:28
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Waratahs coach Michael Cheika stuck to his winning formula in naming his 27-man squad for the team's two-match tour of South Africa.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika stuck to his winning formula in naming his 27-man squad for the team's two-match tour of South Africa.

Cheik not only retained all the players from Friday's emphatyic 32-8 drubbing of the Rebels - which saw the Weary Dunlop Shield return to Sydney - but he added Pat McCutcheon, Jonno Lance, Tala Gray and Cam Crawford to the tour party that wil take on the Sharks and Stormers.

Utility back Lance and loose forward Pat McCutcheon have both been close to making an appearance in 2014.

They've been named in the 25-man squad for the last two weeks, only to be omitted from the squad in the lead up to kick-off.

Gray was set to make a play in the season opener before a rib injury curtailed his chances, while outside back Cam Crawford has now fully recovered from shoulder surgery.

Crawford, a 100kg wing who crossed for eight tries in seven games to notch the highest tries to games ratio in the 2013 Super Rugby season, is eager to pick up where he left off last season.

Big and powerful, back row forward Gray was signed by Cheika from French Top 14 side Biarritz to provide depth in the back row and will get his chance in the republic.

Preparing for the battle of the breakdown against their South African rivals, the coach has included seven back row forwards in the 15-strong forward contingent - with skipper Dave Dennis and Jacques Potgieter also set to cover the lock position.

In the backs, Lance will provide cover for Bernard Foley at flyhalf and Israel Folau at fullback, while Crawford will cover for the outside backs.

Cheika praised his side for overcoming a determined Rebels team with some bruising physicality, which opened the door for the pulsating attacking display in the second stanza.

"This idea that we'll come out, dart around and score some tries - that's fantasyland. In footy you've got wear your opposition down as well, and take your opportunities when they come," Cheika said.

"Our physicality was good and that told me that the players were on, they want to get stuck in. Even though it's not perfect, we're into the game physically and we're knocking on the door."

Captain Dave Dennis echoed the sentiments of his coach, attributing the bonus point win to a dominant performance up front.

"I thought at half time if we kept at it we'd open them up. We thought we were on the edge of scoring some points. There was a feeling there at the break that the physicality we showed in the first half was wearing them down," Dennis said.

The Tahs fly to South Africa on Saturday, where they'll take on the Sharks in Durban next Saturday (March 29), before travelling to Cape Town's Newlands to face the Stormers (Saturday, April 5).

They then return to Australia via Perth, where they meet the Western Force on Saturday, April 12, before finally returning home to host the Bulls in a big round 10 Easter Saturday clash in Sydney.

Waratahs squad: Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota Nau, Paddy Ryan, Will Skelton, Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (captain), Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Peter Betham, Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Alofa Alofa, Israel Folau, Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Benn Robinson, Wycliff Palu, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Rob Horne, Matt Carraro, Pat McCutcheon, Tala Gray, Jonno Lance, Cam Crawford.

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