Home Sports Refreshed Waratahs host Reds in Super Rugby Pacific Round 2

Refreshed Waratahs host Reds in Super Rugby Pacific Round 2


As Round 1 felt like a prelude to the Super Rugby season, Round 2 launches with some of the more historically anticipated matches of the home conferences, providing the competition with a feeling of meaning that it so lacked one week ago.

Across the Tasman, we see the home island derbies with the Highlanders hosting the Crusaders and Blues taking on the Hurricanes.

At home, a revamped and refreshed Waratahs host the Reds at Leichhardt Oval. Water may have passed under bridges, sands passed through hourglasses, but the elephant memory of a Force fan never forgets the pain of being axed in favour of the Rebels. Yes, Round 2 delivers matches with real emotion and now Super Rugby has begun!

A Waratahs-Reds meeting is penned in many Aussie rugby fans’ calendar and while 2021 only delivered one-sided contests, Friday night promises something more entertaining.

The Reds travel south with the confidence of a dominating 2021 season and a comfortable win over the Rebels one week earlier. The Waratahs have used Round 1 to show all how a season of cascading calamity can be put aside and grasp the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

The Waratahs will take home ground advantage but the Reds arrive rightful favourites. With the teams now announced, we can explore the individual strengths and match-ups that will define Friday night’s clash.

The two packs have a very different balance. The Reds take advantage here with a relatively settled forward pack. While the loss of Brandon Paenga-Amosa is substantial for both the Reds and Rugby Australia, Alex Mafi, a product of the Queensland Rugby pathway, is a well-known commodity with significant experience as both a reserve and starter.

He will partner with the maroon rock star Taniela Tupou and loose head Feao Fotuaika. Together, they will provide scrum dominance throughout the match.

Tupou packing down against Angus Bell provides one of the many anticipated battles of the match. While both are very skilled and athletic props who provide a real point of difference in open play, both have sky-rocketed recently in terms of scrum technique and this will be a great testing ground for both.

Taniela Tupou of the Reds celebrates scoring a try

Taniela Tupou (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The second and back row are the real positions of dominance for Queensland. The power and agility from 4 to 8 will not be matched by the Waratahs in the absence of Michael Hooper.

Much has been said about the potential of Will Harris, however Harry Wilson will be following on from some very strong form in round one and will be eager to remind all why he deserves more national caps.

The Reds’ forwards won’t have it all their own way, and the Waratahs know there are weaknesses to exploit. The line out for the Reds is growing into a serious legacy issue and it is difficult to see how anything other than a major shake up to the set-piece coaching will rectify this.

The Waratahs need to target this if they are to win any points in the set-piece battle and Geoff Cridge will need to prove here why he is the clear choice ahead of local products.

In addition, the New South Welshmen do posses a weapon that could blunt the force of the Queensland loose forwards – that is the hold and choke tackle that they have developed and executed.

Harry Wilson and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto have a habit of carrying too upright and tall and will likely be targeted for easy turn over by the Tahs’ forward pack.

The Reds’ halves and midfield are another very settled and well-drilled combination that the Tahs will struggle to match.

While Izaia Perese and Lalakai Foketi provide significant punch in direct running they may find that the defensive experience of James O’Connor, Hamish Stewart and Jordan Petaia is adequate enough to nullify.

In the back three Alex Newsome will find it a tough night at the office trying to defend against Petaia, Fillipo Daugunu and Jock Campbell.

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Coach Brad Thorne made some very flattering comparisons this week between Campbell and Queensland rugby league great Darren Lockyer. While Rugby Australia is desperate for the service of a once in a generation footballer that Lockyer was, it is difficult to see Campbell rising to that level.

However, it must be noted that Campbell’s ability and intelligence has significantly grown over past seasons.

While this certainly feels like the Reds’ game to lose, the Waratahs already appear a polar opposite to the easy beats of 2021. Round 2 will be a hard test for the home side and much of the game will hinge on the effectiveness of their forward pack to disrupt the flow and upbeat tempo of the Reds’ attack.

Defence does win games and if the Waratahs can consistently win line outs and turnovers in their own half they may put the Reds under enough pressure where penalty kicks are a defining element of this greatly anticipated match.


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