The NSW Waratahs are embracing the challenge of trying to topple the Super Rugby competition leaders in Durban without attacking trump Israel Folau.
Far from fretting about Folau missing the showdown with Jake White’s Sharks with a bruised throat, the Waratahs view Saturday’s match as an opportunity to prove they’re no one-man band.
Folau has been untouchable in 2014, crossing for eight tries in four games, a strike rate no player in Super Rugby history has managed over the opening month of a season.
“It’s pretty obvious that Izzy adds a lot to our group in terms of his attacking ability and overall game,” said Waratahs captain Dave Dennis.
“But we’ve still got great depth and it creates an opportunity for someone else. We’re not too worried about having someone else stepping up.”
That certain someone is former Queensland Reds title winner Jono Lance, who has been asked to make his debut for the Waratahs in Folau’s No.15 jumper at Kings Park.
The 23-year-old accepts he’s no Folau, but is nevertheless confident of contributing to a Waratahs victory in his own way.
“There’s definitely a belief we can win,” Lance said.
“Izzy’s a freakish player but there’s a lot of other players who are putting players into position to score.
“A lot of the tries Izzy has scored are through the good work other players have done and he’s been in the right position.
“So it’s a matter of those players playing this weekend to continue creating opportunities for other guys.
“We’re definitely optimistic.”
Kurtley Beale had been tipped to replace Folau, but coach Michael Cheika has preferred to retain the former Wallabies fullback at inside centre.
It’s been Beale’s midfield partnership with five-eighth Bernard Foley that has created most tryscoring chances for Folau and Lance admits he’ll be pouring over videos of NSW’s recent matches for tips on how to also take advantage.
“Izzy’s support play is exceptional and I’ll definitely be looking at the footage of the previous few weeks and seeing what I can learn from him and definitely try to bring that this weekend,” he said.
Travelling nicely in third place, and second in the Australian conference behind the Brumbies, Dennis believes a showdown with the table-topping Sharks on their own patch is just what the Waratahs need.
“The boys are pretty excited about the opportunity to play a good team away from home,” Dennis said.
“It’s not daunting at all. It’s obviously challenging and we know we’ll be tested, which is probably what we want at this stage of the season. It will really give us an idea of where we are.
“We’re comfortable with the way we’re playing and, if we stick to our sort of style I’m confident we’re capable of getting a really good result against them.”