T-train on track for Waratahs start
WARATAHS giant Taqele Naiyaravoro is set for a call-up to the starting side on Friday night to play the Hurricanes in Wellington.
But a potentially epic clash between the T-train and "the Bus" has been ruled out, with Hurricanes winger Julian Savea rested for the clash.
Naiyaravoro used all of his 130 kilograms to score a spectacular try against the Crusaders on Sunday, common off the bench in the second half to run straight over the top of rival George Bridge with a brutal finish reminiscent of Jonah Lomu is his prime.
It came after a similarly impactful cameo off the pine against the Rebels and took Naiyaravoro's tackle bust tally for the season to nine - in a total of 24 minutes.
With concerns about his levels of fitness after a stint in Japan over summer, Tahs coach Daryl Gibson was cautious about starting Naiyaravoro.
But much like his ball carrying, the strike power offered by the huge Wallaby wing was too hard to contain and Naiyaravoro appears set to be in the NSW starting side when it is named on Wednesday.
Cam Clark looks to have also held a place on a wing, meaning Andrew Kellaway and Reece Robinson will miss out.
Bernard Foley is also confident he'll play and Rob Horne (hamstring) is a good chance to return as well.
Waratahs backs coach Chris Malone said Naiyaravoro was "definitely a chance" to start.
"He is just working his way into form and fitness, big T," Malone said.
"And without question, the last couple of performances off the bench - he was very good off the bench against the Rebels also - he is putting his hand up for selection. Absolutely he comes right into contention for selection."
Naiyaravoro, who was plucked from Wests Tigers reserve grade by Michael Cheika, started most of the 2015 season and averaged around three tackle busts and 70 metres per game.
He left to play for Glasgow in 2016 and impressed there, and after returning to NSW and the Wallabies midway through last year, turned in a Man of the March game for the Barbarians when they drew 31-all with the Springboks in November last year.
A five-day turnaround between the Crusaders and Hurricanes means Tom Robertson (concussion) is unlikely to play, although Foley is believed to be feeling optimistic about his chances to play.
They can be dangerously alluring but the Waratahs are clinging to the positives in defeat against the Crusaders, and while everyone else is focused on the dismal trans-Tasman record, NSW is only looking at the Australian conference.
Win it, you play finals football and the Waratahs - sitting just three points behind the Brumbies - appear confident they can find the form to not only claim their conference, but the whole competition as well.
"They (the Hurricanes ) are the champions, they won last year, they're in red-hot form and you really know where you sit in terms of the competition both playing the Crusaders and then backing up against the Hurricanes on Friday night," Malone said.
"It will give us a good idea of whether we're good enough to take out the title or not.
"It is still within our control to do what we want to do this year. We have had a hard run and had results not go our way but seven minutes to go at the weekend, we are still in the contest. We are on their line.
"I take great heart out of that and belief in that what we're trying to do will work.
"Yes, we shot ourselves in the foot with different things in the game but if we get those right and get more consistent in what we do, I believe we can compete with and beat the top teams in the comp."
Malone said fixing up their leaky defence and not giving up cheap possession with poor kicks were the big focuses for the team this week.
"Contestable kicking as a strategy is a good strategy but you have to get the contest. Ten metres too long, too often, plays right into the hands of teams like the Crusaders and the Hurricanes," he said.
"You have to get that right."