Waratahs won't blame injury crisis for 'frustrating' run
Skipper Jake Gordon is refusing to use his side’s injury crisis as any excuse as the NSW Waratahs’ top-four ambitions go on the line against unbeaten Super Rugby Pacific leaders the Chiefs.
After a depressingly winless campaign in 2021, the Waratahs under first-season coach Darren Coleman morphed into surprise quarter-finalists and title outsiders last year.
But with three defeats from four starts this campaign, Coleman and company are under pressure to live up to their own expectations.
The Waratahs host the table-topping Chiefs at Allianz Stadium on Friday night knowing victory is non-negotiable after publicly stating a top-four finish was the 2023 goal.
“Every game is important now,” Gordon said at Thursday’s captain’s run.
“Every game is always important, really, but definitely playing against a really good team tomorrow night – even last year they were the team that we really struggled with up front, containing their forward pack.
“So what’s important is that we match them physically. We need to do that, and then play some really quick footy.
“When we get quick recycled ball, we look really dangerous.”
Compounding the Waratahs’ woes is an alarming casualty ward featuring a glut of Wallabies and rising stars that has led to Coleman needing to potentially blood two more debutants off the bench in talented outside back Harry Wilson and New Zealand-born lock Zac Von Appen.
But Gordon insists injuries can’t be blamed for the Waratahs’ dicey predicament.
“It’s been frustrating but we’ve got some real quality players now,” the halfback said.
“You look at the depth of our hookers. Mahe Vailanu was awesome around the park last week. We’ve got Tolu Latu, who’s also an international.
“Joey (Walton) comes in (to the centres). He started games in 2020.
“So we’ve formed some real depth across the squad.
“It’s definitely disappointing with some of the injuries but guys are stepping in and doing a job for us.”
And a good job they will need to do against the benchmark Chiefs as the Waratahs return home to Sydney for the first time since round one.
“It’s been a tough period being away from home,” the captain said.
“”We love being home playing in front of our people. It’s very important for us at the moment. We’re still searching for a really strong performance.
“You saw glimpses of it against the Drua, where we played some decent footy. The first half against the Hurricanes last week there were bits, and the same against the Brumbies.
“We’re looking for that 80-minute result. Hopefully it clicks tomorrow night.”
NSW WARATAHS’ CASUALTY WARD (expected return date in brackets)
Angus Bell – toe (2024)
Archer Holz – ribs (round 6+)
Charlie Gamble – shoulder (round 9+)
Hugh Sinclair – shoulder (round 8+)
Lalakai Foketi – shoulder (round 8+)
Langi Gleeson – calf (round 6)
Mahe Vailanu – knee (round 6+)
Max Jorgensen – shoulder (round 6+)
Mosese Tuipulotu – knee (round 6+)
Tane Edmed – back (round 8+)
Teddy Wilson – neck (round 6)
Tiaan Tauakipulu – knee (round 8+)
Will Harrison – toe (round 6)
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