'Weak' Waratahs pack has point to prove against Sharks, says captain Dave Dennis

Durban: A conversation with new teammate Jacques Potgieter confirmed what Waratahs captain Dave Dennis already suspected.

South African teams expect to own their Australian opponents up front.

"We've always thought that African teams have always looked down on us a bit as a forward pack, that we were pretty weak, and [Potgieter] confirmed that," Dennis said.

"He has just reaffirmed what we have always known, but coming from him it has more meaning."

The South African's insight may have galvanised the Waratahs. Up against competition leaders the Sharks at the start of a gruelling three-week tour, the side has trained this week as if they have something to prove.

"We're confident, we're definitely confident," Dennis said.

"The way [coach Michael Cheika] spoke about it when we got off the plane was that you can look at it as a three-week tour and say we get back to Sydney after three games and see where we sit.

"But we have very much taken the view that this is our game. We haven't even thought about where we'll be sitting if we lose it, we just think that it's a great opportunity to get a win and we'll be playing it like the last game of the year."

Former Brumbies coach Jake White named a beefed-up pack for the team's return to Kings Park, with Willem Alberts returning to the second row and Jean Deysel starting at No.7.

"If the Waratahs try to play attacking rugby and we hit them hard at the gain line we might be in a position to seize on attacking opportunities and play good attacking rugby ourselves," White said.

In the back line Fred Zeilinga, a Vodacom Cup star little known outside South Africa, has been anointed as Pat Lambie's replacement at No.10, with Francois Steyn staying put at inside-centre.

The big surprise was White's decision to bench fullback SP Marais and name winger Lwazi Mvovo in his place. Odwa Ndungane has returned to the wing, with Mvovo considered "too good" to leave out of the starting side, White said.

"Outside of maybe Frans Steyn, I think that Lwazi is the form player among the backs and with 50 caps he merits a place in the team," he said.

"The Waratahs don’t kick much, but if they do, we have pace to burn in running the ball back at them."

The Waratahs are reading it as a sign of intent.

"[Jake White] is a very smart coach and he'll use their strengths, big big forwards carrying hard, and a good kicking game – [No.12 Francois] Steyn can kick them from anywhere," Dennis said.

"I think they'll try to bully, us to be honest. [White] is South African himself, it's not as if he's an Australian coach working over here. So he'll probably have that mindset himself of trying to really bully us and play territory and set piece."

It looms as a fascinating match-up. A side whose success is built on set-piece dominance talking up their attacking game and a side that collects four-try bonus points like they're going out of fashion, now fixing for a fight.

"I honestly think we can score four tries on Saturday, even without Israel [Folau], but I don't expect it to happen in the first 20 minutes, or first half, it's going to be an 80-minute thing," Dennis said.

"Traditionally we would have probably got a bit anxious around that and shut up shop, but now we can stick at it. Last week [against the Rebels] was a good indication, we came in at half-time, we didn't play very well, but we worked hard, we were physical, and we knew that if we stuck at it we would get it.

"That's a reflection of our training mentality, to just keep working hard, and then it comes down to will. Whichever teams wants it the most normally gets the result."

This story 'Weak' Waratahs pack has point to prove against Sharks, says captain Dave Dennis first appeared on WA Today.