McKenzie defiant over late arrival plan


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Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has defended the decision to take his squad to South Africa to face the Bulls and Stormers just two days before their two-match tour to the Republic.

The Waratahs lost to the Bulls on Saturday night going down 16-13 after leading 7-6 at the break.

The Waratahs are still still second on the ladder and well placed for a home semi-final with two rounds remaining despite the loss.

They must however beat the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday to ensure they don’t miss out on hosting a Semi-final.

The pressure would have been a lot less had they beaten the Bulls but McKenzie is adamant that their preparation for the South African leg – which included a 14-hour flight that arrived late Thursday afternoon – played no role in their defeat.

“[I] talked to the players. There was no issues. At half-time, the guys were good,” McKenzie said in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We made replacements later than we thought we might because the guys were coping. We had plenty of chances to win it.

“We will rue our decisions on the field. We are not going to rue anything in preparation. We had enough there to be able to win the game.”

Supporting McKenzie’s claim is that his 26-man playing squad recorded an unprecedented perfect record in their daily hydration readings.

“For the first time we had a hundred per cent success on hydration,” he said.

“You won’t get any complaints from the players. They all felt good.

“We are not going to look at that for a reason. We are going to look at what we did on the field.”

The Waratahs did not escape Saturday’s match without any injury concerns. Prop Matt Dunning is in doubt for the Stormers match with a calf muscle injury, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will be monitored for a head knock and fullback Sam Norton-Knight had his eye stitched, was blood-binned twice and reported blurred vision.

Waratahs captain Phil Waugh still felt the match was always NSW’s for the taking.

“It [the weather] obviously suited them. They kicked a lot better than we did,” Waugh said.

“But we had our chances to score. We could have gone 14-0 up ‘ it [would be] a different game then. There are critical moments that change momentum. And we were on the receiving end of those.”

Waugh added that the Waratahs had committed many of the same errors at the restarts in other games but still managed to win. “But against a team like the Bulls at Loftus with their kicking game, it hurts you,” he said.

Waugh also criticised referee Lyndon Bray for failing to stop the Bulls slowing down the ball at the breakdown.

“Lyndon said at the start of the game he wanted quality set-piece ball and quick ruck ball,” Waugh said.

“It felt like every time we went to the ruck, there was someone lying on the ball. It felt like they were repeat infringements, the same stuff over and over ‘ blokes just lying on our ball.

“We wanted to play, and we couldn’t play. It just gets frustrating.”



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