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How the stars of the Super Rugby opener have sized each other up

By AAP
Jake Gordon. (Photo by Clay Cross/Photosport)

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For all NSW’s planning, the Fijian Drua still hope to catch the Waratahs napping in Friday night’s Super Rugby Pacific opener at Sydney’s Commbank Stadium.

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The Waratahs have spent all week reminding themselves not to fall into the trap of trying to match the Fijians’ flamboyance, with skipper Jake Gordon reinforcing the point after Thursday’s captain’s run.

“It’s going to be a free-flowing game,” Gordon acknowledged.

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“We just need to play at the right ends. We’ve had a habit of playing too much footy in our own end of late. We saw that last year in the Trans-Tasman series where teams who are really good off turnover attack, really hurt us.

“We’re looking to play at the right end, be really disciplined in our attack and take first points on offer.”

Drua coach Mick Byrne politely suggested good luck with that ahead of his side’s much-anticipated Super Rugby debut after a three-year apprenticeship in the National Rugby Championship.

“I don’t want to be smart about this but the way we play, there’s an element of surprise,” Byrne said.

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“Last week we scored a couple of set-piece tries, working through our game plan. But when that ball hits the ground there’s a whole new element of the game we can play and I want to keep encouraging our players to play like that.”

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After a depressing and winless 2021 campaign, the Waratahs enter the new season flying after three trial wins, over the Brumbies, Queensland Reds and combined Shute Shield opposition.

That only fuels the Fijians, with Byrne confident his newcomers will rise to the occasion.

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“They’re going to be more than competitive,” he said.

“It’s a change of the guard leading them. The players will be reinvigorated because of that and there’s motivation to come out and show the people and yourselves that they really want it.”

First-year Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said his main aim from the trials was to have his battered players remember what it felt like to win again.

Now that they do, it’s vital the Tahs carry the momentum into the competition proper.

“Everyone is starting on zero so the Reds win and the Brumbies win will be a distant memory if we come out and perform poorly tomorrow and lose,” Coleman said.

“We’ve had a few wins but are we winners yet? I think it’s a bit early to say that.

“So starting well is paramount, particularly for a team coming off a season it’s just had.

“They’ve had a few trial wins, confidence is up, the boys are enjoying each others’ company so there’s no excuses for tomorrow.”

– Darren Walton

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