NSW Waratahs winger Rob Horne has accepted the challenge of stopping Brumbies flyer Henry Speight in the Super Rugby semi-final in Sydney on Saturday night and has invited the ACT side to continue playing expansively.
Speight was sensational in the Brumbies’ 32-30 win against the Chiefs in the qualifying final in Canberra last Saturday night and looms as a major threat to the Waratahs.
While Horne normally defends in the midfield for the Waratahs, he is expected to stay on his wing to try to contain Speight.
Asked whether he would mark Speight, Horne said: “I’m not sure. I would imagine so.
“He was incredible on the weekend, that first half. It’s an exciting challenge for us to minimise his influence on the game. He is a big cog in their machine.
“Just hopefully put yourself in a position to minimise his impact. That’s pretty much it.”
Speight has been described as the core of the Brumbies, but he was not concerned about the weight of expectation that was now on him.
“That’s a pretty good compliment to have,” Speight said. “I’m not nervous. I’m just happy to be training today and live to play another week.
“They (the Waratahs) will be a massive challenge. They have set the benchmark this season. We will have to be on our A-game to compete this weekend.”
Another Waratahs winger, Peter Betham, is expected to make a comeback from a foot injury on the reserves bench and he was also looking forward to having a crack at Speight.
“That would definitely be a bonus,” Betham said. “He is the in form winger going into the finals. I definitely want to get in there and test how he is.
“As a winger you can’t get too much into thinking about the opposition. You are on the back foot already. You are anticipating what he is supposedly going to try to do. You’ve got to work to your own strengths. Limit his space as well.
“Just back yourself as a winger going up against him. That’s all you can do really.”
Betham fractured his foot in Cape Town in early April and started running again three weeks ago, but he said he was fit to play.
“It has definitely been a hard slog,” Betham said. “Fourteen weeks, but who’s counting? I’m definitely looking at getting back into the fold.
“I fractured my foot on uneven footing in South Africa. I had surgery which takes up to three to four months. I told them two months.
“I was really determined to get back. I just want to be part of something special. What’s going on at the moment, you’ve got to be a part of it.
“I definitely feel I can back myself in terms of being able to perform if given the chance. My GPS numbers are good. My speed is good. Fitness is good. Whether or not I get picked I’ve ticked all the boxes. I should be raring to go.’’
The Brumbies are getting the ball to their wingers more often after they abandoned their percentage style of game for an expansive, running game.
There is a school of thought that if the Brumbies try to play expansively against the Waratahs, it will play into NSW’s hands, which may explain why Horne seemed so keen for them to continue shifting the ball wide.
“It was good to see them play a bit of rugby,” Horne said. “That’s positive for the game on Saturday.
“We’re not going to change. We are going to play the way we played all year. I really do hope they come out and play the way they did on the weekend because it worked for them. They have had a bit of success doing that now.
“For everyone who comes and sees the match hopefully it is like that.”