The NSW Waratahs insist Kurtley Beale’s seemingly inevitable departure at season’s end won’t derail their Super Rugby campaign.
The Waratahs are eyeing a fourth straight win and top spot in the Australian conference with victory over the Bulls in Sydney on Saturday night and say reports of Beale joining Wasps in the English Premiership is the playmaker’s issue.
“We’ve prepared well this week, the team’s in really good spirits and what Kurtley does is his business. We’ve got a game to win,” coach Daryl Gibson said on Friday.
Gibson noted that Beale had been among the form players in Australia despite speculation around his playing future dragging on for months.
“He’s probably been playing some of the best rugby of his life,” he said.
“So he’s clearly unaffected by what’s in front him and that’s a good thing.
“It shows his maturity that he’s grown into this year – and as a player.”
Skipper Michael Hooper was also adamant Beale’s mind was very much on the job at hand, despite the 27-year-old set to become one of the highest-paid players in the world after reportedly agreeing to a $2.96 million, two-year deal with Wasps.
“My job’s just to focus on getting him right for the game and getting him in the best possible head space and Kurtley’s been one of our outstanding performers,” Hooper said before Friday’s captain’s run.
“This thing hasn’t been a flash in the pan. It’s been going on for a while. He’s been playing on the field despite that, so I’ve got full confidence in Kurtley to be able to perform without me needing to help him in any way.”
More of a concern for the Waratahs is the state of the newly-laid pitch at Allianz Stadium.
The entire field was secretly returfed after scrums in the Waratahs game last weekend tore up the pitch.
Hooper was confident the new grass would hold up but admitted shifting scrums and divots were a worry.
“It is a concern,” the flanker said.
“Player welfare needs to be taken into consideration.
“But, look, we’ll back these guys that they can do the job. It hasn’t been a huge problem here in the past.
“So it should be right tomorrow night. They’ve done a pretty good job in a week, I think.”
Coach Gibson was disappointed the Tahs were unable to secure a bonus point against the lowly Cheetahs and issued the challenge to his charges to step up against a superior Bulls side that has lost just twice this season.
“Obviously they’re a much better team than the Cheetahs,” Gibson said.
“They bring a similar style to the Cheetahs with big guys. They’re going to be very direct and they offer a huge strength at set-piece time.”