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Waratahs focused on ‘doing a job’ in Fiji in bid to get season back on track

By AAP
Langi Gleeson of the NSW Waratahs is tackled during the round two Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park, on March 04, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Rain, hail or shine, the NSW Waratahs plan on “doing a job” on the Fijian Drua in a desperate bid to reignite their Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes.

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The Waratahs will take on the Drua in front of almost 15,000 rabid fans at a sold-out Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday knowing their season likely hinges on victory.

Both sides are one from four this campaign after both recording upset wins over the defending champion Crusaders.

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Back-rower Langi Gleeson, one of four NSW players with Fijian heritage, has warned teammates they’ll be entering a cauldron.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
1
Draws
0
Wins
4
Average Points scored
20
38
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
60%

“It’s almost like it’s a fortress,” Gleeson said before Friday’s captain’s run.

“It’s always tough to verse the Drua, especially in their hometown. Their crowd certainly gets behind them and it’s hard to shut them down.

“Especially with the heat and humidity, with the crowd as well, I’m sure we’ll remember this game for the rest of our careers.

“But we’ll try and do a job on them this Saturday.”

The Fiji weather office forecast heavy rain and issued flood warnings this week, but more of a concern for the Waratahs will be Drua coach – and former Wallabies assistant – Mick Byrne’s claim that his players are nearing peak fitness already this season.

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Despite their 1-3 record, the Drua outscored the Blues – last-start winners over the Waratahs – in the second half, and also Moana Pasifika, as well as keeping the Crusaders to zero after the interval.

“My most physical games have been against the Drua,” Gleeson said.

“A lot of sore bodies for like two weeks after playing the Drua so it’s just about getting in those contacts and wrapping the ball.”

Unbeaten in four meetings with the Drua, the Tahs are coming off consecutive two-point home defeats to the Highlanders and Blues.

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But the narrow losses have buoyed Darren Coleman’s troops rather than deflated them.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to match those teams, as opposed to last year; we wouldn’t even get close to them,” Gleeson said.

“We’re improving every week and there’s a lot to learn from that game against the Blues.”

In a double-header treat for fans, the Waratahs women also will face the defending champion Fijian Drua in a rematch of last year’s semi-final.

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Michael 38 minutes ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Cant deny Christie is a good defender, box kicks well at times, BUT he’s a second too slow passing from the ground. Roigard, Ratima and Hotham will be our 2027 halfbacks I believe DMAC has played reasonably well in both games, so deserves to keep his place - his two breaks at Eden Park should have resulted in tries. Reece was really to blame for the Taylor failure - he stayed too wide, if he had come in a couple of meters the pass from Taylor would have worked. The Perofeta failure was extraordinary, he is normally such a good distributor, failure to draw in Steward was remarkable, failure to look inside was a shocker. Cory Flynn as lineout coach… umm something a miss here. Not sure who is calling the lineouts, but clearly we miss Whitelock’s leadership. Having a disfunctional line out really underminded the AB attack. But let’s remind ourselves Itoje is a master, and their tactics of going for the arms of the jumper on landing and pulling over was brilliant causing Paddy and Scooter to both fumble the balls. I am a Blues supporter so I like Talea, but if you play him on the wrong wing look out. While he’s not the fastest wing, he’s elusive and very industrious always looking for work. However, he’s not the tallest player, and everyone knows his weakness (a) being turned in defence - he’s slow to turn and react and (b) never jumps for high balls is normally out jumped. Personally, I find Recce and Talea too alike - Razor needs to couple them with another complementary partner Clark and Narawa respectively. However, for me the real troubling challenge is our mid-field. I am sorry Barrett & Ioane are a poor combo - either Barrett & Proctor or ALB & Ioane - but having two mid-fielders who are poor distributors is nuts. Jordie had a forgettable game in truth he missed so many tackles, which to be fair is unlike him. But sadly both Barrett and Ioane chose to bash first and rarely distribute cleanly.

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