Waratahs Call on Josh Holmes For Blues Clash
The man who was once tipped to be the next Nick Farr Jones, Josh Holmes, has been drafted into the Waratahs starting line up ahead of the must win knock out semi-final against the Blues at Eden Park.
Holmes comes into the side for the injured Luke Burgess who fractured his hand at training on Tuesday.
Holmes, 24, was a standout performer in Australia’s under 19 World Championship victory in Dubai, but since then his career has stalled.
After debuting for the Waratahs in 2008, Holmes was unable to crack it for a starting berth so he moved to Canberra. After another two unproductive season with the Brumbies he decided to move back to Sydney.
It seemed as if Holmes would fade into obscurity after being demoted to the Waratahs third string scrum half behind Burgess and Brendan McKibbin, however coach Chris Hickey has backed him to have a big game against the Blues.
“He’ll relish being out there on Saturday night,” Hickey said.
“The thing with a player like Josh is that he’s remained focussed and has worked really hard and he’s well prepared for this opportunity when it comes to him.
“At age group level, at 19’s and 21’s, he was a very promising player, but careers unfortunately don’t always keep going up – there’s plateaus and sometimes there’s valleys.”
Not only will the Waratahs be without their first choice scrum half in Luke Burgess, but they must also make do without first choice hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, prop Al Baxter, five eighth Daniel Halangahu, and backline ace Berrick Barnes. Back up hooker Damien Fitzpatrick has also been ruled out.
The long injury list has forced Hickey to make a number of positional changes. Kurtley Beale will move from fullback to fly half, while winger Lachie Turner moves to fullback and John Ulugia will start at hooker. Despite the number of changes Hickey remains confident his players will able to strike up a match winning combination.
“If you’ve had a settled line up all year and then things are thrown around in a semi-final week it might cause a bit of panic. However we haven’t been able to field the same team week to week in almost four months, so were used to changing things around,” Hickey said.
“We’ve been training since November and playing since February so everyone has confidence in each other, and the players who have come in from club rugby have taken everything in their stride.”
Rather than conceding defeat because of the injury crisis, Hickey believes it will help galvanise his team.
“It’s far from ideal. It does make it tough but this is a resilient team, we’ve had to fight over the last month just to get here,”
“It is in these situations that you find out about the tenacity and mental toughness of a team.”
The Waratahs played the Blues at Eden Park earlier in the season and they were defeated 31-17.
The Waratahs have managed just one win at the Auckland venue in the past 90 years, however that did come in 2009 and there are still a number of players in the Waratahs line up who know exactly how it feels to win at Eden Park.
If they Waratahs are successful they will meet the table topping Queensland Reds in a blockbuster preliminary final at Suncorp Stadium.