The Waratahs were weighed, measured and found wanting by the Brumbies in both their matches this season.
The cumulative score-line and try counts are certainly a fair indication of the difference between the two sides.
The Brumbies have recruited astutely in the backline in the off-season, namely Aidan Toua and Tomas Cubelli, and have added a few strings to their attack when compared with the quiver and bow of 2015.
The second of Joe Tomane’s trio of tries serves as a great example of this.
Christian Lealiifano, after distributing to a straightening Stephen Moore, instinctively looped around his captain and used the corner created by Moore’s carry to unleash Matt Toomua down the right flank.
A nicely worked clean break ably finished off by Tomane.
When you note that this action started 35m out from their own line I think its fair to say that the 2015 Brumbies, and the Jake White-era side, would have most probably been content for Moore to carry into contact and kick long into the Waratahs’ 22.
These Brumbies are a fully matured version of themselves. Self-aware and confident in their own skin, they have the luxury of being able to concentrate on improving the basic skills required to carry out their plans and add layers of attacking deception as they see fit.
To their Saturday night opponents this must seem like Nirvana.
The Waratahs are a talented group of players who seem, from the outside, to have an identity crisis.
This much has been admitted publicly by club captain Dave Dennis when he said the club’s previous leadership group had come up with “a clear way of how we wanted to play rugby” and challenged the current version to drive the implementation of a new philosophy.
An overly simple explanation of the Waratahs under Cheika is of a boxer fighting in a 100m x 70m ring.
Jab (Will Skelton), jab (Jacques Potgieter), jab (Rob Horne), right hook (Israel Folau)…
Jab (Sekope Kepu), jab (Wycliff Palu), jab (Tatafu Polota-Nau), straight right (Adam Ashley-Cooper), right hook (Kurtley Beale)!
The left would pound away, tire you out and hurt you until the right put you to sleep.
The problem for Daryl Gibson how few of these names he has left in his arsenal.
Like all successful teams the Waratahs have had natural turnover but the problem has arisen because the changes haven’t been like for like.
The power game that worked with the departed cattle needs to be adapted and we are bearing witness to the teething problems this represents.
The most important is that the Waratahs are still full of talented players and that Daryl Gibson is right to add more nuances to the Waratahs attacking principles.
The Waratahs need to decide on and affirm their new identity then stick to it come what may to improve this season and build for the next, while the Brumbies need to work to become the best possible version of themselves for the Finals campaign.
Both sides would do well to heed Polonius’ parting advice to his son Laertes in Act 1 of Mr Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“This above all: to thine own self be true”.
A former Reds and Waratah Centre, Morgan Turinui player 20 Tests for the Wallabies before spending sevens years in France. He is now coaching at the Randwick Rugby Club in Sydney.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.
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