Emerging NSW Waratahs five-eighth Will Harrison has earned praise from his coach and Springboks stalwart Elton Jantjies after steering his side to their first Super Rugby victory of the season.
Highly regarded Harrison distributed the ball well and also ran effectively as the Tahs ran in five tries in their 29-17 victory in Sydney on Friday.
The Junior Wallabies playmaker has started all four of the Waratahs’ games but has struggled at times in his last couple of matches behind a beaten pack.
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“Will’s mental toughness and resilience, call it what you want, to go out and perform like he did today on the back of a couple of tough performances, shows the level and depth of his character, which is great for the future,” Waratahs’ coach Rob Penney said.
“It doesn’t mean he’s a finished product yet, but it’s a great comeback from where he was maybe last week.”
Harrison was directly opposed to Lions captain and pivot Jantjies, a 37-times capped Springbok, who was part of South Africa’s 2019 World Cup winning squad.
“I think he (Harrison) went well, he made some good decisions,”Jantjes said.
Penney attributed the Tans’ sharpest attacking display of the season to playing with a dry ball after toiling in wet conditions in previous games and the players willingness to express themselves.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be yet but it’s a great step in the right direction,” Penney said.
He was also pleased with his team’s vastly improved defensive effort and the way his leadership group lifted the team in the time since their last start loss to Melbourne before last week’s bye.
“Simmo (captain Rob Simmons) needs to take a lot of credit for what he’s done, he showed a lot of real leadership credentials, which is wonderful,” Penney said.
Asked what the leadership group had done lock Simmons said: “We wanted to stand up and I think we took a lot of responsibility on ourselves to really voice what a good game looks like and we trained that day in day out,” Simmons said.
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“Our four big sessions since the Rebels, we came off the field feeling like we played a game.
“There was a big focus on raising our intensity and I think that showed on the field today.”
Simmons lauded another non-stop effort from flanker Michael Hooper, the man he succeeded as captain.
“He’s an impressive athlete, isn’t he? His work rate is unbelievable,” Simmons said.
Simmons (ankle) and halfback Jake Gordon (hamstring) will both undergo a scan after coming off early on Friday.
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