Waratahs on lineout crusade

2008-05-30 11:44

Christchurch - Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has turned the torch on the South African referee as the countdown to Saturday night's Super 14 final intensifies.

Still carrying the scars from the Waratahs's 2005 final defeat at the hands of the Crusaders, McKenzie on Friday urged experienced match official Mark Lawrence to properly police the opposition lineout - unlike fellow South African Jonathan Kaplan three years ago in Christchurch.

The Waratahs lineout is among the best - if not the best - in the competition, as evident by their five steals off Sharks throws in last week's semi-final rout in Sydney.

In contrast, the Crusaders have lost experienced hooker Corey Flynn with a broken arm and the Waratahs are hoping to attack the throws of his replacement, Ti'i Paulo - provided they get a fair go from referee Lawrence.

"The lineout's an interesting area of the game," McKenzie said on Friday.

"I remember in '05 when we played here, we came with a pretty good lineout but I guess one of my regrets in that game was that there was probably six crooked throws (by the Crusaders) called by the 'touchies', but we didn't get any action from the referee.

Dominance critical "I think one of the important things is to get the contest in the lineout. Obviously the ball's got to go in the middle."

McKenzie said lineout dominance was critical for the Waratahs, particularly against the six-time champion Crusaders.

Hence why he was eager to ram home his point to the referee.

"You've got to get a result for your pressure there. (In the 2005 final), we generated pressure but we didn't get a result on the crooked throws," he said.

"You know, crooked throws are a turnover of possession. It gets you maybe 40m up the field.

"We know this game's about territory, it's about possession. The Crusaders have dominated everyone in recent weeks so, if you don't get a reward for your pressure, you don't get to play at the other end of the field.

"And that's important. I'm just looking for the contest in the lineout. The obligation is on both teams to throw straight."

Sound the referee out

The Waratahs also felt robbed by Kaplan in the 2006 semi-final in Wellington when the South African awarded the Hurricanes a controversial scrum penalty in the final minute which allowed Hurricanes five-eighth Jimmy Gopperth to slot the winning kick from halfway.

The Tahs have not played under Lawrence in 2008 and McKenzie said he would sound the referee out before the final to discuss "one or two things".

"I've got every faith that Mark knows what he's doing," McKenzie said. "He wouldn't have the game if he wasn't in form.

"So I'm happy with that and I'm sure he'll do a good job. Mark's a pretty experienced campaigner. We've had him plenty of times."

All the lineout attention deflected the spotlight from Waratahs captain Phil Waugh, who continues to look bothered by a hamstring strain.

McKenzie, though, insisted Waugh would be fine and claimed the entire squad was in a "good space" as kick-off approached.

"You need to see what they're like in the dressing room, but even then you can't tell," he said.

"You can have a seamless warm-up and play not that well and you can have a warm-up where you drop five balls and they have a ripper, so ... all my subjective indicators are saying that they're tracking quite well.

"To be honest, I feel like we could almost play the game tonight if we had to. So I feel like the guys are ready."

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