Shute Shield XV: The Non Contracted Club Stars Ready To Play Super Rugby
The production line of talent through the Shute Shield competition cannot be questioned and as we head towards another Rugby World Cup cycle here’s a team of talented players ready for the next step.
There’s going to be a lot of change at the Waratahs over summer following the departures of coach Daryl Gibson and a host of high profile names who are off overseas at the end of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
While a new coach is yet to be named, the Tahs back office will be hard at word putting together their squad for the 2020 season.
There’s a lot to like about the young talent currently at Daceyville and with time a number of those younger squad members will likely star in sky blue.
But in the mean time, what the Waratahs desperately need are some hard, experienced bodies that are capable of playing Super Rugby right away.
Fortunately, the Shute Shield is full of players that meet that description so we thought we’d pick a side of non-contracted guns that could add to the Tahs Super Rugby campaign in 2020.
1. Matt Sandell – Sydney Uni
Sandell spent several seasons at the Waratahs but as a prop, he probably wasn’t quite physically ready to play Super Rugby. His scrummaging technique though is arguably the best in the competition and at 24, he’s now ready to take the next step.
2. Mahe Vailanu – Gordon
The Gordon forward is just as capable in the backrow as he is at hooker which fits the mould of the modern day No.2. Still only 22, Vailanu has two caps for the Rebels and will return to Melbourne to play in this year’s NRC.
3. Rob Lagudi – Eastwood
Behind Sydney Uni, Eastwood had the second most dominant scrum for most of 2019 and captain Rob Lagudi was a big reason why. At 26, Lagudi has plenty of upside and could take his game to a new level if he trained full time in a professional program.
4. Connor Vest – Northern Suburbs
While a number of his teammates have had a crack at Super Rugby already, Vest hasn’t had as much luck. The big bodied 25-year old is the competition’s most dominant lineout jumper and could start in the Tahs pack tomorrow.
5. Nick Champion de Crespigny – Sydney Uni
Similar to Vest, Champion de Crespigny is arguably the most underrated forward at Sydney Uni. Born and bred in Canberra, Champion de Crespigny is tough as nails and has a huge engine. He’s made the second most tackles of any Shute Shield player in 2019.
6. Michael Icely – Eastwood
Described by coach Ben Batger as a young Hugh Perrett, Icely has been brilliant in his first full season of first grade for the Woodies and could take his game to a new level after a full preseason in the gym. Still only 21, it seems it’s not a question of if but when Icely plays Super Rugby.
7. Rowan Perry – Eastern Suburbs
Rowan Perry hung up the boots over summer but came to his senses midway through the 2019 season and had an immediate impact at the Beasties. Perry spent time in the Brumbies program in his younger years and at 24, could still have a big future in Super Rugby. Manly veteran Kotoni Ale is another that should be playing at the next level but has never been given the opportunity.
8. Sam Ward – Warringah
While Ward’s budding Northern Beaches physio practice is keeping him busy, the 29-year old is exactly the experienced, big bodied forward the Waratahs need. Arguably the strongest ball carrier in the competition, Ward would give the Waratahs and their young halves some much needed front foot ball.
9. Dewet Roos – Southern Districts
The Southern Districts No.9 got a taste of Super Rugby with the Brumbies a few years back and proved he was up to it then. While he’s now one of the older No.9s in the competition, the 29-year-old is still causing his opposition headaches and could continue to do so in sky blue.
10. Angus Sinclair – Northern Suburbs
With Bernard Foley heading overseas, the Tahs are left with three young and relatively inexperienced No.10s at Daceyville. While Mack Mason deserves first crack at the starting flyhalf spot, the Tahs could benefit from an older head in the ranks and Sinclair at 29, could fill that role nicely.
11. Harry Jones – Warringah
Jones’ first stint at the Waratahs ended prematurely when he was released at the end of the 2017 season, but the Warringah winger looks to be a far more complete and mature player after spending a bit more time in club rugby. At 23, he’s now ready to compete at Super Rugby level and deserves another crack at some point.
12. Beaudein Waaka – Manly
He may be a Kiwi but he’s also been the most dangerous back in the competition this season after crossing the ditch to join Manly over summer. Waaka can play anywhere in the backline and at 25, still has his best rugby in front of him.
13. Dennis Pili-Gaitau – Manly
Pili-Gaitau returned from 12 months plying his trade in France late in the season and showed he hasn’t lost any speed or class. At 30, he’s closer to the end of his career than the start but he’s also experienced and a proven performer, something the Waratahs could benefit from greatly in 2019.
14. James Kane – Sydney Uni
You could make an argument that just about every young player at Sydney Uni deserves a shot at Super Rugby, based on their form over the past two seasons but Kane’s kicking accuracy and distance, both from the tee and in play, sees him get the nod over his equally talented teammate Harry Potter.
15. Tim Clements – Sydney Uni
Clements is a natural footballer who looks like he has all the time in the world when he’s got the ball. At 22, he could probably benefit from another preseason or two in the gym but is another that looks destined to play Super Rugby at some point in his career.
This article originally appeared in the Rugby News Shute Shield Grand Final Program.