Rocky road predicted for Waratahs
May 18, 2010
Rocky Elsom's best efforts couldn't quite lift the Brumbies to the Super 14 finals © Getty Images
Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom has predicted it will be "tough" going for Australia's only Super 14 semi-finals representatives when the Waratahs take on the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.
The New South Wales side will attempt to become the first Australian franchise to win a finals match on South African soil when they meet the Stormers at Newlands, and Australia and Brumbies flanker Elsom isn't sure the Waratahs will break that record in the last season of the current Super 14 format.
"It's going to be very tough for them because South African sides are a lot better over there," Elsom told Fox Sports. "The Stormers look particularly sharp considering their win over the Bulls last week and their general good form. But the 'Tahs are pretty strong, they're a resilient side so they'll be in with a good show but it's definitely going to be tough."
The Waratahs must also overcome something of a front row crisis as injured Wallabies prop Benn Robinson's absence and mid-game injuries to his replacement Dan Palmer and reserve hooker Damien Fitzpatrick in the win over the Hurricanes that sent them into the play-offs left the Waratahs down to the bare bones up front. Adam Freier travels to South Africa as cover despite playing barely any rugby since returning from a hamstring injury.
Elsom believes the class of Robinson will be missed on Saturday: "You can't really cover for Benn Robinson. He's by far and away the best loose-head prop going around, so it's just about covering them as well as you can but they'll definitely miss Benn."
Elsom would much rather be in action this weekend than judging his countrymen's chances of success. He admitted the Brumbies would count their season as a failure despite falling just short of the finals with a last-round loss to the Crusaders, who will meet the Bulls in the other semi.
"It was a disappointing way to end the season. We'd hoped for a bit more at the start of the year but we shot ourselves in the foot halfway through the season."
The Brumbies finished sixth behind the Reds in fifth with only the Western Force lingering in the bottom half of the table, making it one of the most successful seasons for Australian sides generally - a theme that bodes well for Elsom's Wallabies when the Test season kicks off next month and the Tri-Nations starting in July.
"The Reds were the big surprise packages with good performances all through the year," Elsom said "Not only winning games but the way they won them. I think everyone was happy with the way they went. Then of course the Force have had a lot of good players so there's more good players to choose from which is something the Wallabies selectors will be pretty happy about.
"You always want to have options with your selection and that's something we haven't had a lot of in recent years. (The Tri-Nations) is the toughest tournament going around so it's not going to be easy but the signs are reasonably good and I think we're in a better spot than we were last year."