On a humid morning in February, Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver took the microphone and made the extraordinary declaration that 2014 was the year of the Waratahs.
Not a ball had been kicked, no one knew which Kurtley Beale would turn up in round one and, though they boasted the best and most expensive playing roster in the country, this was the Waratahs, after all.
Warathahs coach Michael Cheika has defended Will Skelton’s work ethic after the giant lock was left out of the Wallabies tour party to build fitness in the NRC.
Skelton’s conditioning came under the spotlight on Wednesday when Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said a decision had been made to get more games under his belt after playing only 106 minutes of rugby since the Super Rugby final.
He became an honorary Australian by starring for the Waratahs in their Super Rugby triumph but Jacques Potgieter is set to go from teammate to fierce Test rival with a recall to the Springboks later this month.
The wildman flanker, who became a cult hero for NSW, is a favourite of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and News Corporation understands Potgieter will be drafted into the South African squad for home games against Australia and New Zealand.
Potgieter is currently playing in Japan for the Fukuoka Sanix Blues but recently returned to South Africa on holidays and spoke with Meyer at the Boks’ first Test win over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.
When most people refer to the influence of Wallabies legend Mark Ella on rugby union, they recall his on-field wizardry and brilliance with the ball in hand.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika did on Thursday at a Randwick Rugby Club fund-raising lunch that feted Australian rugby’s four “Invincibles”.
Ella, who played 25 Tests from 1980-1984 before retiring at the of age 25, is one; along with Col Windon, Ken Catchpole and David Campese – all of whom played for the Galloping Greens.
The Waratahs are hopeful of locking in off-contract playmaker Kurtley Beale within a fortnight.
Coach Michael Cheika said he wasn’t taking anything for granted, but was reasonably confident of re-signing the 43-Test back for another season.
“It looks like it’s going better, so hopefully something’s going to happen there in the next week or two,” Cheika said.
He missed out on the Bledisloe Cup last weekend, but Wallabies captain Michael Hooper added to his bulging portfolio of individual accolades by winning a second straight, NSW Waratahs Players’ Player of the year award on Tuesday.
Openside flanker Hooper, who led NSW to their maiden Super Rugby title following a late season knee injury to first-choice skipper and fellow back rower Dave Dennis, polled 277 votes.
New Zealand rugby is claiming its second referee apology in a week, with Craig Joubert said to have admitted he was wrong with a ruling that probably cost the Crusaders the Super Rugby crown.
The Waratahs won a tense final three weeks ago in Sydney 33-32, with the winning points coming from a penalty when flank Richie McCaw was penalised for entering a ruck from the side with a minute remaining in the match.
Had the kick missed, the Crusaders would have had possession and would have been unlikely to yield their 32-29 lead with time almost up.
Israel Folau believes God broke his ankle in 2009 to teach him a lesson about boozy weekends and random one-night stands with women.
Folau believes God took him out of the NRL to endure two years of toil in the AFL to humble him.
Then, only after Folau had reconnected with God, did He open the door to rugby, in which he now stands as the man to end 12 years of Australian agony by leading the Wallabies to victory over the All Blacks in tonight’s Bledisloe Cup opener.
And if you think Folau is crazy, he doesn’t care.
“I want to advertise who Jesus Christ is, which is the thing that means most to me,” the Wallaby fullback says, patting his heart hard.
“I know it’s got nothing to do with footy, but that’s what drives me every single day.”
Mastercoach Michael Cheika’s multitude of secret motivational techniques to turn the Waratahs from paupers to premiers can now be revealed.
While the story of the golf clubs given to players before the grand final win over the Crusaders last weekend has been well told, it was only one element of Cheika’s unique strategy to build a squad of players used to failure into a champion team.
Long-serving Waratahs backrower Wycliff Palu is one of the best examples of how Cheika’s ideas transformed players. The burly No.8 was forced to walk from Central Station to the Waratahs’ office at Moore Park every day as part of a daily ritual to ensure he didn’t become complacent after a decade at the club.
Retired South African referee Jonathan Kaplan says the Crusaders can feel hard done by after a late penalty cost them the Super Rugby title.
The Waratahs beat the Crusaders 33-32 in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last Saturday courtesy of a late penalty by flyhalf Bernard Foley.
The Crusaders looked headed for their eighth Super Rugby crown when flyhalf Colin Slade put them in front with a penalty in the 76th minute.
The Waratahs won a drama-laden Super Rugby grand final 33-32 in Sydney with Bernard Foley breaking the Crusaders hearts by kicking a 45m penalty in the final seconds.
This frantic contest had multiple dramas, starting with the Crusaders trailing 14-0 in as many minutes, losing their talismanic general Dan Carter with an ankle injury in the first half and then having to mount a spirited comeback in front of a record 62,000-strong crowd.
Michael Chieka didn’t quite take a sledgehammer to the Waratahs’ chronic problems; he took golf clubs instead.
As his players gathered in the change-room before the biggest Super Rugby game of their careers, and for most the biggest in their lives, Cheika slowly began to pull out 23 golf clubs, each personalised with female names.
He’s loath to talk about dynasties and sustained dominance, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is already plotting a path to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
With a season remaining on his three-year contract, Cheika laughed off speculation he could be heading off to coach the Argentine national team after guiding the Waratahs to their Holy Grail.
“What, for a holiday? No, I’m here. We’re well into our planning for next season,” Cheika said after the Waratahs’ last-gasp 33-32 win over the Crusaders in Saturday night’s final.
Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.
The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.
Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.
Todd Blackadder’s pre-match prediction that the Super Rugby final would be determined by a few crucial moments came back to haunt him as a “50-50″ call condemned the one-time competition kings to another bridesmaid experience.
Bernard Foley’s last minute penalty secured the Waratahs their maiden title on Saturday in Sydney and extended the Crusaders wait for their eighth to at least an eighth year.
When the Waratahs were awarded a penalty inside the last minute of Saturday’s night Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley didn’t flinch.
He immediately stepped up to take the kick – even though from 43-metre the attempt might be slightly out of his range.
Waratahs (20) 33 / 32 (13) Crusaders (Final Score)
The Waratahs and Crusaders did battle in the 2014 Super Rugby Final at
ANZ Stadium, Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, SHD & M-Net on TV in SA.
When the scholars trawl through history and attempt to unearth the origins of a Waratahs premiership, they may settle on two names.
Michael Cheika and Israel Folau? No? Okay, what about Kurtley Beale, or Nathan Grey?
All those will feature, certainly.
But in the timeline but they’d have to go back further and head 287km south to Canberra.
There they’d find the names Jake White and Ita Vaea, and a moment-in-time conversation between the new Brumbies coach and a kid with six starts called Michael Hooper.
The year was 2011 and Hooper had been at the Brumbies for two seasons; serving as back-up to the legendary George Smith in his debut year.
It is the Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! The Waratahs host the Crusaders.
This weekend decides the honors for the 2014 Super Rugby season.
What a game we have to look forward to!
The Waratahs have been good and consistent all season whereas the resurgent Crusaders, who absolutely pummelled the Cell C Sharks last weekend have hit a rich vein of form.
A winner is difficult to predict, there are game breakers on either side, no matter how you look at it. In the final analysis the 2 best Super Rugby sides of 2014 are in the Final and both deserve to contest for ultimate glory in 2014.
13 Other Challengers already now lay by the wayside, done and dusted, only 1 more game to come…. this one!
Who do you think will take the crown and Why?
Let the game continue…. let the battle commence!
Phil Waugh says he will be one of the great Waratahs and Daryl Gibson believes he is the “free spirit” rugby badly needs.
Jacques Potgieter just thinks he has never played with anyone better.
“I think Kurtley is the best rugby player I’ve ever played with and the best I ever will play with,” Potgieter says. “The best of the best. When he gets the ball it is like in slow motion, he has got so much time with the ball. And the thing he has taught me is that he always backs himself.”
From horror Tahs to Super stars – it’s been a rocky, 19-year ride for Waratahs rugby fans.
It certainly hasn’t always been pretty – think Matt Dunning’s brain explosion field goal, the 96-19 debacle in Christchurch and getting belted by the Brumbies in the semi-finals.
Yes, the Waratahs have had plenty of lows to match their rugby highs.
Perennial underachievers in the world’s toughest provincial competition, the Waratahs had always boasted one of the most talented playing rosters but were unable to turn that into on-field success.
Unusually it was Michael Cheika who found himself on the receiving end, even if the abuse wasn’t personal when he was appointed head coach of the NSW Waratahs after another forlorn Super Rugby campaign.
The abrasive former club rugby No 8 was appointed after Australian rugby’s under-achieving franchise finished a disappointing 11th in 2012 – an outcome that prompted disillusioned fans to detail their frustrations for head office.
Cheika, a Heineken Cup-winning coach with Leinster in 2009, could afford to smile when, on the eve of the Waratahs’ historic home final with the Crusaders, he recalled handling the correspondence.
He is renowned for arguably changing the course of the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour in the Wallabies’ favour by concussing key English flanker Richard Hill, but now Nathan Grey is devising more cerebral tactics to knock the Crusaders of out whack.
Grey’s elbow to the temple of the Lions blindside in the 32nd minute of the second test in Melbourne was credited with shifting momentum against Graham Henry’s team who were unable to recover from the loss of the inspirational Hill for the remainder of the three-test series.
The 39-year-old doesn’t like to dwell on his airborne assault at Docklands (now Etihad) Stadium – it took until the Lions’ next tour to Australia last year for the hard-hitting midfield back to revisit a controversial incident that paled only in comparison to Duncan McRae’s unprovoked attack on Ronan O’Gara in the tour match against New South Wales.
There are palpable similarities between Waratahs coach Michael Cheika and ex- Bok coach Harry Viljoen.
Viljoen coached the Springboks for love and not money, he was already a multi-millionaire before taking over the reigns from Nick Mallet.
Viljoen quit the post in 2002, two years before his contract would have expired, quoting public criticism as the main catalyst.
Michael Cheika built a successful clothing company, has dabbled in restaurants, speaks four languages, and once dazzled Collette Dinnigan in French to secure a job – utterly unqualified – with the Australian fashion designer.
NSW Waratahs have stoked the fire ahead of the Super Rugby final after skipper Michael Hooper failed to turn up for a photo promoting Saturday night’s blockbuster.
Hooper was supposed to be photographed alongside Crusaders captain Kieran Read and the Super Rugby trophy on Friday.
But the All Blacks No.8 and reigning IRB Player of the Year got sick of waiting and walked off ANZ Stadium with Hooper still a no-show 20 minutes after the scheduled time.
Ahead of the 2014 Super Rugby Final, we have decided to pick out the key head-to-heads set to take place at ANZ Stadium this Saturday.
Five players wore the red and black the last time the Crusaders won the Super Rugby title in 2008, that 20-12 win coming versus the ‘Tahs, who also had five in action. So for Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson the game may well have some feeling.
Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Wyatt Crockett were those on the triumphant XV in Christchurch, but will they be again?
Here we look at six battles set to take place in Sydney and judge who might have the edge in the critical areas that could decide the fixture.
It was like a scene out of the movie Invictus.
After the Waratah’s final training session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final, Adam Ashley-Cooper dropped to a knee with the entire squad huddled around him, arm in arm, and recited a poem he wrote himself.
The rhyming stanza lasted for 20 minutes and was met with rapturous applause at its conclusion.
The Waratahs trained in the open in Sydney today and the pressure on coach Michael Cheika was obvious as he oversaw the team’s final significant practice session before Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.
Already on the equivalent of a good behaviour bond after incurring a suspended six-month ban by SANZAR for abusing a cameraman during the Waratahs’ loss to the Sharks in Durban, the notoriously volatile head coach was again irritated when a photographer took images of lineout drills.
“What if I come to your work and start f…king photographing you?” Cheika shouted at the photographer situated behind the goal posts at the Kippax ground near Allianz Stadium.
That message got through but soon afterwards the 47-year-old noticed another photographer at the other end of the field, prompting Cheika – in more conciliatory tones – to ask the Waratahs’ media manager to warn him to stop shooting.
Former Waratahs captain Phil Waugh says the Waratahs pack can “dominate” the Crusaders in the crucial forward battle, if their mental game is spot on.
Waugh, the state’s most-capped player, rejected speculation from sections of the New Zealand media that the seven-time Super Rugby champions would have the Waratahs on toast at set-pieces in Saturday’s final at ANZ Stadium.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has predictably made no changes for Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Given the way his team dismantled the Sharks 38-6 in Christchurch last weekend there was always an expectation Blackadder would roll out the same side for the showdown at the Olympic Park’s ANZ Stadium.
He barely blinked during the white-knuckled flight over the Southern Alps and Ryan Crotty isn’t worried about what lies ahead in Sydney, either.
Strong westerly winds caused lively turbulence for the Crusaders’ Air New Zealand jet as it flew over the South Island’s spine yesterday, resulting in the pilot reducing altitude and slightly deviating the flight path to give his passengers a smoother voyage.
Given some of the hairy situations they have endured on the field the Crusaders have become accustomed to wild rides, so like his team-mates Crotty could only fasten his seat belt and wait for the bumpy ride to end.
It’s that sort of resolve coach Todd Blackadder will want from his men during Saturday night’s Super Rugby grand final against the Waratahs.
It couldn’t be a more familiar sight. The Crusaders, Super Rugby’s most successful team, arriving to play in another final and Richie McCaw, the most capped All Black ever, sporting a freshly stitched gash under his eye.
The team from Christchurch is after its eighth title and, even away from home, bookmakers are taking three times the money from punters on a Crusaders win.
The Crusaders have history on their side, having beaten the Waratahs in two previous Super Rugby finals.
But this time they are in Sydney, where they haven’t played all season, and McCaw is paying no attention to past records.
A State of Origin-esque sea of blue, an Australian Super Rugby crowd record and the biggest take-up of corporate packages since the Manchester United exhibition match say ANZ Stadium will be the furthest thing from a ”neutral venue” when the Waratahs take on the Crusaders this Saturday.
As Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder and countless New Zealand pundits latched on to the notion the All Blacks’ 54 per cent win record at the Homebush Bay venue would take the sting out of the Waratahs’ home ground advantage this weekend, match organisers were putting the finishing touches to a plan to ensure it will do anything but.
Todd Blackadder cannot believe the Waratahs have ditched their fortress to chase the almighty dollar.
If Crusaders coach Blackadder was in counterpart Michael Cheika’s shoes he would never allow anyone, or any amount of cash, to persuade him to give up home advantage for a Super Rugby grand final.
Rather than play Saturday night’s much-anticipated match at Allianz Stadium, where they have been unbeaten all season, the Waratahs have agreed to relocate to the less familiar – but bigger – ANZ Stadium at Olympic.
Injured Waratahs captain Dave Dennis has revealed some of the secrets which have helped the Waratahs make the grand final this year.
Dennis gave an insight into the Waratahs unique strength and conditioning programme as well as the culture which Michael Cheika has created.
“We have been challenged probably physically more than we ever have as a playing group by Cheik. I think it’s well documented the work we did in the pre season running up hills around Coogee or running around Centennial Park.”