Warren Whiteley says the Lions will need to be wary of the attacking threats posed by a Waratahs side that is expected to keep ball in hand this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
According to Sanzaar’s statistics, the Tahs are notably ranked first in the competition for clean breaks (264) and metres carried (8,789), while they have scored the third-most tries (77).
Last Saturday, the Waratahs demonstrated just how dangerous they can be when they overturned a 17-point deficit to stun the Highlanders in a match where Wallabies backs such as Bernard Foley, Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale made their presence felt.
In terms of player statistics, Foley is the competition’s leading point-scorer (217); Folau has racked up 10 tries this season, while Beale is ranked equal fourth for carries (176).
It highlights the threats that the Waratahs do have in their attacking arsenal, with Whiteley acknowledging that the Lions would need to be switched on defensively in Saturday’s semi-final.
‘If the Tahs start getting front-foot ball, as they did against the Highlanders, then they’re extremely dangerous with the likes of Folau and Kurtley [in the backline]. The Highlanders did well at the beginning of that match, but as soon as the Tahs started getting quick ball and their forwards went more direct, then it became tough [for the opposition]. They are a very good side that is tactically very smart, and they’ll have a plan that they will want to execute.’
With this in mind, the Waratahs will have taken note of the Lions’ competition-high lineout success rate (90.9%), which has laid the foundation for the Johannesburg-based side’s highly effective rolling maul.
‘We know the Waratahs have lots of attacking threats and will kick tactically because they’ll most likely be aiming to keep the ball in play, so we’ll need to be switched on defensively,’ Whiteley commented. ‘I don’t think they’ll want there to be too many set pieces this weekend.’
It all makes for what should be a highly-entertaining clash, with the Lions also aware of the need to ensure they protect possession.
‘If the Tahs get front-foot ball, they’ll punish you,’ Whiteley said. ‘If they get kick receipt, they’ll counter with the likes of Folau from the back. So we have to be very good with our contestable kicks, and if we kick deep, then it must really go deep because if they have time on the ball, then they can score plenty of tries.
‘We’re focused on the job at hand,’ the Lions skipper added. ‘We want to bring a special performance this weekend. I think it will be an interesting game tactically, and we’re really looking forward to it.’
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