Super Rugby: Tahs Ready To Go ‘Back Down the Hole’ Says Polota-Nau

New Hair, Same Muscle - "It’s pretty similar to last year’s but shorter – because it’s too damn hot for an afro right now, I think I’d drown in my own sweat if I had it that long!" - Photo: Karen Watson

New Hair, Same Muscle – “It’s similar to last year’s but shorter. It’s too damn hot for an afro right now, I think I’d drown in my own sweat if I had it that long!” – Photo: Karen Watson

Paul-Cook-webby Paul Cook –

They say it’s hard to get to the top but even harder to stay there. So, only five months after their exhilarating, albeit nail biting, title triumph in front of 62,000 fans at Stadium Australia, just how do the NSW Waratahs intend to set about matching their ground breaking achievement?


With a new season less than a month away, preparations are in full swing as New South Wales’ finest embark on a mission even tougher than the one they accomplished in 2014. With success, comes added pressure. For the first time in the Tahs’ Super Rugby history, the hunters have now become the hunted but it’s a challenge that the squad are ready to embrace and indeed thrive upon.

Having reconvened as a full squad after the New Year – the Wallaby contingent rejoining after a well earned extra hiatus – Michael Cheika and his coaching and conditioning staff have set about driving their charges to the limits once again as they set out to prove that last year’s championship win was no one-off event, rather the first step towards long term consistency of success.

While the players are under no illusions as to the difficulty of the task before them, the glittering trophy now on display at their Moore Park home has brought with it an air of confidence and an unbridled sense of belief in what they are doing. They have the results to back it up.

Skipper's Return: Dave Dennis puts in the hard yards after a successful return from injury - Photo: Karen Watson

Back In Charge: Skipper Dave Dennis puts in the hard yards as he continues his return from a knee injury – Photo: Karen Watson

“It’s going to be a hard ask and we’ve got to be mentally prepared as every team we play is going to come at us,” agrees hooker Tatafu Poloa-Nau. “It’s not just a challenge mentally and physically, it’s also a test of consistency. We want to make sure that last year was no fluke and that the standard we set last year will be there for the future generations of Waratahs to come.

“Each team will ultimately pose a threat and want to knock us off but I think the tougher challenge for us is – can we do it again? We have to be harder on ourselves because we control our destiny and only we can control the way we play and we have to keep delivering to the same standards that have put us in this position.”

Travelling the path of most resistance has been the adopted mantra since coach Cheika arrived at NSW HQ. The increased levels of fitness, aggression and physicality shown by the Tahs last season were not mere happenstance, they were a result of months of dogged application, good old fashioned hard yakka and a desire to push both mind and body to the absolute limits in search of greatness.

And if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

“We’ve got to keep going down that hole,” says Polota-Nau. “I don’t think it’s anything new, it’s more a case of not being sick of repeating that. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. We’ve set a benchmark at training and on the field and hopefully we can keep repeating that every week and in every game that comes along.”

Their first footsteps on the road to a successful defence come in the shape of an intriguing trial match against some of the Shute Shield’s brightest lights a week Saturday. The afternoon of 31st January will see Granville Park in Merrylands host the Tahs as they compete in three halves of 30 minutes each against Sydney University, Randwick and Tatafu’s beloved Parramatta Two Blues.

A Granville junior, he took his bow in club land with Parra before his promotion to the next level. He returns to the jersey whenever the opportunity arises, supports from the sidelines whenever his schedule allows and is a serving board member. He admits to having mixed feelings about the clash.

“It will be very odd,” he smiles. “So odd that I might just have to head off to the changing room when we do play them and stick a Two Blues jersey on! It’s great for the club, they want to build on the success they had last year and there’s no better way than going up against the best. It’s one thing to play against us but hopefully, it fuels their aspirations to play alongside us in the future as well.”

One To Watch: New recruit Sam Lousi will be on display in the trials. "He’s had a good pre-season, he’s a big unit and we’re looking for big things from him." says Tatafu - Photo: Karen Watson

One To Watch: New recruit Sam Lousi (left) is settling in well. “He’s had a good pre-season, he’s a big unit and we’re looking for big things from him,” says Tatafu – Photo: Karen Watson

A week later, the Tahs have their final pre-season hit-out against the Chiefs – Sonny Bill Williams and all – at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Friday 6th February. The benchmark side in Super Rugby before the Tahs knocked them off their perch, the boys from the Waikato will offer a suitably stern test. Polota-Nau approves the choice of both opponent and location.

“From our perspective, you want to be testing yourself against the best sides out there on a regular basis,” he explains. “They’ve been the most consistent side over the last five years and the fact that we don’t play them in the regular season this year means this game gives us a good opportunity to measure ourselves against a team who have gone back to back in recent seasons.

“It’s also been a while since we were in the South-West – 2009 I think – so it’s good to get out there and offer some top class rugby to that area. There’s plenty of talent out there but it’s a rugby league heartland so most kids get drawn into that code. If we can help expose a few more juniors to rugby by giving them a little taste of it, maybe they could be the next Israel Folau.

And we wouldn’t say no to that would we?

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NSW WARATAHS TRIALS

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Saturday 31st January – 1pm

TAHS v SYDNEY UNI / RANDWICK / PARRAMATTA (3 x 30 min halves)

Granville Park, Montrose Avenue, Merrylands

Friday 6th February – 7.15pm

TAHS v CHIEFS

Campbelltown Sports Stadium