Young gun David Horwitz is embracing the challenge of filling Kurtley Beale’s sizeable boots as the NSW Waratahs face life without the England-bound playmaker much sooner than they hoped.
The Waratahs on Sunday were awaiting confirmation Beale would miss the rest of the 2016 Super Rugby season after suffering a serious knee injury in Saturday night’s 31-8 win over the Bulls in Sydney.
The setback is also a major blow for the Wallabies and halfback Nick Phipps admits it will be difficult for the shellshocked Waratahs to move on from losing their spiritual leader.
“He’s such a charismatic player. There’s a lot of great players around the world but they don’t really have that aura around them around the club,” Phipps said.
“He’s the one who picks you up when you’re down. He’s always happy having a laugh and his rugby mind is second to none.
“He’s really tough to replace.”
In fact, NSW captain Michael Hooper admitted on Friday when news filtered through the team ranks that Beale was heading to Wasps on a multi-million-dollar deal that it would be impossible to replace the Wallabies star.
But Hooper and Phipps are backing 21-year-old Horwitz to fill the midfield breach between Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley and superstar centre Israel Folau.
The former Australian under-20s representative – a natural five-eighth and second ball player in the same style if not class as Beale – impressed coach Daryl Gibson sufficiently enough when deputising for 79 minutes against the Bulls to likely to start against the Crusaders on Friday.
“Dave Horwitz has just got to grab it now,” Phipps said.
“There’s no excuse. He’s just got to have that confidence in himself to grab that 12 jersey knowing full well that he was probably the incumbent for the next year as well.
“It’s just a little bit earlier for him. So he’ll be right, the big fella. He’s got some good blokes around him. In between Izzy and (Foley) isn’t too bad.
“I’m sure he’ll definitely step up to the plate. We’ve got a lot of faith in him.”
Horwitz started the first three games of the season when Foley was out injured and says that background will be vital.
“I was really happy I was thrown in the deep end early rather then being nursed through the bench,” said the Super Rugby rookie.
“Now later in the season when there are a few injuries if I get the responsibility of starting, at least it’s definitely put me in good stead.”
The Waratahs travel to Christchurch having climbed to the top of the Australian conference with a game in hand over the Brumbies – who have a bye this week – following their bonus-point win over the Bulls.