Waratahs newcomers shine in loss

Coach Daryl Gibson’s rookies left him with more questions than answers following the Waratahs’ 40-35 Super Rugby trial loss to the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday.

Both teams scored five tries apiece, with All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa running in three for the home team.

Gibson gave a number of Waratahs newcomers the chance to stake their claim for the season ahead.

Lock Sam Lousi, formerly of the Warriors in the NRL, was one who shone, while former All Black Zac Guildford made the most of his opportunities with a try in the second half.

The performances of some of the younger players have given Gibson some selection headaches ahead of the Waratahs’ season opener at home to the Reds next weekend.

“That’s the whole point of trials in my mind, you’ve got to see if your new guys are up to playing against quality opposition,” Gibson said.

“The more they play, the more you can trust them when you call on them later in the season.”

The former All Blacks centre will have to call on injury cover sooner than he’d like, with first five-eighth Bernard Foley likely to miss at least the first two games of the season after injuring his shoulder in a tackle.

On the plus side, fullback Israel Folau made his return from ankle surgery after the Rugby World Cup without incident, but the Waratahs will return home winless from their New Zealand tour after losing 17-12 to the Chiefs in Rotorua last week.

Nonetheless, Gibson was still satisfied with his team’s pre-season progress, happy with the smooth transition from his predecessor, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Working under Cheika as an assistant coach for three years prior to taking the reins this season had been a real advantage, Gibson said, adding that there’d been no real changes in gameplan.

“You’ve got to use the ball, and use positive ball in hand.

“I think what we’ve tried to do is introduce a bit more to our game as people learn about us. You’ve got to consistently keep ahead of defences and what you see in them.”

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