It’s not quite square pegs in round holes, but the Waratahs are making their best XV fit onto the park, in anyway they can as they look to build for 2018.
Ned Hanigan, who has had a breakout season at blindside flanker for both the Waratahs and the Wallabies, has moved into the second row to accommodate the return of Jack Dempsey to the side.
With Will Skelton injured, NSW rookie Ryan McCauley comes onto the bench for his debut, after a star turn at the U20s World Championship.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said definitively on Thursday that Hanigan’s best spot was at six, flagging a switch for June debutant Dempsey into no. 8 in the long-term.
“It’s going to create excellent competition, really I believe Ned is a six so that’s first and foremost, though he has played lock,” he said.
“In terms of Jack, there’s a potential position switch there, to try no. eight in the future.
“I know potentially the Wallabies might like him there in the future.”
In the backline, usual flyhalf/fullback option Bryce Hegarty will slot in on the wing, for just the second time in his Super Rugby career.
It’s not an unusual move these days, with plenty of Test sides employing a dual fullback structure and Hegarty said he wouldn’t be filling a traditional wing role, playing in tandem with Israel Folau.
“Daryl’s just been chatting to me each week and saying I need to get into the starting side and he was kind of like thinking a couple of positions where it could be and we’re like ‘let’s go wing and work it out from there’,” he said.
“He wants me to play more of a fullback style, have me in the backfield a lot more.
“Other than that – I’ve played it once, when I was at the Rebels and enjoyed it so looking forward to it.”
Gibson’s selections are with one eye to 2018 and the Waratahs are determined to finish their 2017 season on a positive note, as they close in on the make up of next year’s squad.
“We can’t afford to go into next season with poor momentum,” Gibson said.
“I really believe we’ve got the bones of next year’s team already here and need to make sure we finish off the season the way we want to start next season.”
With farewells for Dean Mumm, Rob Horne and Will Skelton on the horizon, there’ll be plenty of emotion among the team.
That, coupled with a measly two wins from six Sydney outings this season, gives them all the reason in the world to try and snag a victory against the Jaguares, Hegarty said.
“That’s something you pride yourself on your team and you’re playing in front of your home crowd and unfortunately we haven’t done that this year,” he said.
“We’ve got this week ahead and hopefully (we can) gain some momentum going into next year and it starts this week against the Jaguares who obviously had a tough loss on the weekend so they’ll be very hungry to keep playing for their (finals) hopes.
“We want to impress the fans that are behind us every week.”
Backrower Jed Holloway will miss the clash with a hamstring injury.
The Waratahs take on the Jaguares on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
IN: Ryan McCauley, Andrew Kellaway
OUT: Jed Holloway (injury) , Will Skelton (arm)
1. Tom Robertson
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Ned Hanigan
5. Dean Mumm
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Rob Horne
14. Bryce Hegarty
15. Israel Folau
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Angus Taavao
19. Dave McDuling
20. Ryan McCauley
21. Matt Lucas
22. Taqele Naiyaravoro
23. Andrew Kellaway