The tackling stats to worry NSW Waratahs, Wallabies

The Waratahs' convincing 'lay down and play dead' routine against the Brumbies last weekend was the ultimate horror movie- not just for NSW rugby but Australian rugby.

On this diabolical night, opposing provincial and international sides, in particular the Highlanders and All Blacks, were reminded of the easiest way to overhaul the Waratahs and Wallabies brand.

Simply run straight at some of their biggest attacking names- in particular focus your attack around the 10/12/13 channel where, defensively, five-eighth Bernard Foley and inside centre Kurtley Beale have been extremely vulnerable- Beale in particular.

We hear Beale wasn't feeling the best on Saturday night. But there were no surprises he was hooked after only 46 minutes when moments earlier he merely went through the motions, basically waving Brumbies centre Kyle Godwin through to score.

This was glaring evidence of someone way out of sorts. But Beale's defence all year has been flawed. He has often tried to hug rather than hinder opponents, attempting to grab the attacker near the shoulders, or trying to smother the ball with a man-cuddle. Many times Beale has been brushed off. Effective low around the legs tackles have been non-existent.

Not surprisingly Beale's Super Rugby defensive statistics are damning. In the category of most tackles missed this season, he is level with the Reds and Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi on 52 as the No 1 culprit. In sixth spot is Foley with 38, behind the Lions' Elton Jantjies (46), Lima Sopoaga from the Highlanders (43) and the Lions' Kwagga Smith (40).

It's hardly encouraging news that the Wallabies No 10, 12 and 13 have all been exposed in defence this season. Adding to the concerns is news Tevita Kuridrani, who finished the Super Rugby season with a flourish, has been ruled out for three months with a pectoral injury.

It is quite obvious that Beale is not 100 percent, and possibly trying to camouflage an upper body ailment. If Beale remains the Wallabies No 12 next month, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina won't be showing any empathy towards him. They will be attempting to find out if there is something seriously wrong with someone who relentlessly gets pumped up by fawning sections of the Australian media as the supposed saviour of the local game. Beale seems to be blinded by all this sycophantic babble.

The Highlanders are savvy. They will begin the Foley/Beale assault during the second Super Rugby quarterfinal in Sydney, which is likely to see the Australian representation in this year's tournament end around 10pm Saturday night.

Should one feel sympathetic towards the Waratahs as Australia's last hope? No!

First up, they don't deserve a home quarterfinal. They only won that right due to an unfair Super Rugby conference system.

They finish sixth on the outright table, and only get the home quarterfinal because they were top of easily the weakest of the three conferences. It's no backslapping feat to be No.1 when you've mainly been up against the ninth, tenth, thirteenth and fifteenth ranked teams. Whoopey-doo.

And whoopey-doo it was last Saturday night when these leg-up merchants could have also guaranteed a home semifinal by defeating the Brumbies, and with it a $400,000 home gate boost to NSW Rugby's coffers. Instead they carried on as if they didn't want to be there. If the Waratahs do survive, the most likely scenario is having to endure a long, mind-sapping trip to Johannesburg to play the Lions.

In a finals lead-up, one has to question the Waratahs' motivation when they were confronting their supposed main Australian rivals. This should have been the ultimate psyche-up. Instead it was a damp squid.

Here was the chance to show they could thrive without their injured captain Michael Hooper, who instead spent the night acting as the team's water boy. On numerous occasions Hooper watched in disbelief as his team disintegrated right in front of him. Hooper must have thought about actually trying to drown his teammates, rather than offering them water bottles, in a bid to wake them up.

Without Hooper, the team lacks genuine leadership- and that will again be a problem in the quarterfinal as the Wallaby skipper is expected to be again sidelined.

Even hobbling with a hamstring complaint, he would have done a better job than Nick Phipps and Rob Simmons in trying to stop Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead from scoring just before the break.

Simmons' feeble grab, which was more like a 'pat a cake, pat a cake, baker's man' vaudeville routine, was pathetic. It was also the first time Simmons had actually been sighted that night. Phipps' grope at Muirhead was only marginally better. Overall downright hilarious.

Amidst all this stupidity, there was some rousing news this week for Australian rugby fans. Not just did SANZAAR insist it is going to curb the power of television match officials, but it revealed it has a walking, talking, breathing boss.

The most anonymous Peter Brady-like figure in local rugby is SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos. His public utterances are as rare as Lord Lucan. But this week he was actually quoted in a SANZAAR media release, saying the TMO system must be reviewed. Smelling salts were required.

Let's just hope that Marinos' rare words are akin to the exhortations from the Waratahs this week- not just mere hollow statements, but involves actual action.