Waratahs to rest stars in Invercargill despite slim finals hope

The Waratahs will rest their Wallabies stars against the Highlanders this week, despite remaining a mathematical chance to make the Super Rugby finals.

Rugby Australia avoided a nightmare scenario of having to decide whether to enforce its new Wallabies resting policy at the likely expense of NSW playing finals, after the Waratahs’ season was all but ended by the Brumbies last week.

It means Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale will all likely miss the match in Invercargill on Friday.

NSW can still make finals but they need a bonus-point victory and several results to fall their way.

Waratahs assistant coach Steve Tandy confirmed players would be rested and backed the next wave to step up.

“It’s an opportunity for boys to come in and really represent what we stand for, and continue how we’ve gone through the season, making sure we fight for every minute we play,” Randy said.

“It’s massive for us (to finish with a win) and it will tell you a lot about what we are, we’re going to rest a few boys but it’s exciting.

“It’s going to be wet and windy so it’s a good test of character because we’re going to go there with some young boys coming in. I’m pretty excited as a coach to see those boys bar up in Invercargill.”

Waratahs flanker Ned Hanigan is expected to return from injury, while this week marks the final game at the club for Nick Phipps and Curtis Rona.

“We’re losing some senior guys who have been unbelievable for the club, so there’s some big shoes to fill but I’ve got no doubt we’ve got some young guys ready to step and take their place,” Tandy said.

“Some boys have been waiting in the wings … and this weekend it will be a great opportunity to see these guys play, and that experience will lead them onto next year.”

The Waratahs have endured a tumultuous season plagued by Israel Folau, who was sacked after condemning homosexuals on social media.

NSW prop Harry Johnson-Holmes said the Folau saga had been a distraction, but added it galvanised the group and backed the squad to finish on a high against the Highlanders.

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“It’s not so much character building but character revealing. How we respond this week will go a long way to (revealing) the future of the club,” Johnson-Holmes said.

“We have a lot of people leaving and it’s an opportunity for younger guys to get their first shot in Super Rugby. To not treat it with the respect it deserves would be a big mistake.”