JOHANNESBURG - As much as history and results may be against them, the Waratahs are going to chance their hand at beating the lions in their Super Rugby semi-final at Ellis Park on Saturday, according to Wallaby prop Tom Robertson.
It won’t only be through sheer dog fight and heart that they will be trying to register an historic victory, but mostly through game management - which Robertson admits is not his strongest point. While the Waratahs forwards have shown mongrel and an ability to square off toe-to-toe with the best sides in the competition, it will be their backs - through Wallabies Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau - that they can win the game.
“It’s going to be a tight game and you never know what’s going to happen. It might go over 80 minutes and stuff like that so game management is crucial. Kicking at the right times and giving the big boys a break when they need it. That’s not really my area to speak about because I’m a forward and I do what I’m told. But Bernard, KB and Nick Phipps I’m quite confident in their ability to manage the game,” said the 23-year-old Robertson on Tuesday.
But it won’t be just about the intel that the backs hold and the Australians will need to hold their own against a Lions forward pack that has been dominant all season long. Robertson believes that if their scrums and lineouts are not up to par then they nullify the threat that their backs have over South Africa’s premier side. And Robertson feels that the only battle that will matter on the day besides managing the game will be in how they stand up to the Lions pack.
“It is massive. We have one of the best backlines in the competition and it is up to us forwards if we can get them good, clean ball so they can do the work. We are really confident in those guys. It is our task as a forward pack in the scrums and lineouts to deliver them clean ball and you’ve seen last week what Kurtley (Beale), Israel (Folau) and Bernard (Foley) can do, they are freaks on their own. It will be up to us to get them the ball,” added Robertson.
It is in trying to weaken that Lions pack that the Waratahs will have to do their utmost in keeping Springbok and Lions hooker Malcolm Marx out of the game along with inspirational Lions captain Warren Whiteley as they are the men that the Lions will rely on as their catalysts for another good performance.
“They’ve got danger men all over the park. From a forwards perspective, Malcolm Marx and Warren Whiteley they are pretty handy and we’ll be trying to look out for them. But they have a lot of fire power all over the park,” said Robertson. “Just look at him (Marx), he plays in the frontrow but he can get around like a flanker. He is fit and handy at scrum and lineout so he is a complete player.”
But more than anything, the Waratahs will also have to contend with the altitude factor which has been the undoing of many teams at Ellis Park. Robertson concedes that playing at altitude can easily affect a side but believes that they have the players with enough experience at facing the realities of playing at the iconic stadium and conditions and have been in Johannesburg long enough not to use that as an excuse for whatever transpires in the game.
“It is just getting used to it throughout the week in training and stuff like that. A lot of us, all of us in the match day 23, have played a game over here and we know what it feels like. We’ve played a few Tests in Pretoria and Joburg and we know what it feels like so we’ll be getting used to it at training this week,” Robertson said.