Roping the Dopes

It took until the final round of the Super 14 for the Waratahs' tactics to become apparent. Inspired by Muhammad Ali, much like the Rumble in the Jungle, the Waratahs are playing rope-a-dope but with a twist; the Waratahs are lulling their opponents into a true sense of security.

The Waratahs cunningly disguised forms and styles by playing ugly in the early Super 14 rounds and then were flamboyant later on. They also carefully blended stunning victories with shocking losses. The Waratahs next opponents, the Stormers who they play in the semi final in Cape Town, must feel that they are odds on to win comfortably against a Waratahs side that has turned unpredictability into an art form.

The Waratahs might turn up on the day and have one of those matches where all the passes stick and all the Kurtley Beale chip kicks bounce back into his hands, but they probably won't. They may also have one of those days where the forwards gel like a machine in the scrums and they control the ball tighter than Matt Dunning's head gear, but they probably won't.

Indeed so unlikely is it that the planets will align, that the Waratahs can win a semi final away in South Africa against an opponent that thrashed them first time round at the same venue, that the only thing in their favour is that no one, especially their jaded, many times burnt, fans, expect them to win.

Of course the Stormers know all this, and in perfect police drama style of bluff and counter bluff will ensure they don't get overconfident. The Waratahs meanwhile will try to outdo them in the lack of confidence stakes by emphasising just how ordinary they really are, how they hate playing in South Africa, how bad the food was on the flight over, and how uncomfortable their beds are in the hotel.

Indeed so bad will things be portrayed to the South African media that by the time of kick off the Stormers, rather than being overconfident, will be sympathetic to the plight of the poor Waratahs and will be perfectly lulled into a true sense of their own superiority.

So the Stormers will be the better team on the day. Better prepared, more consistent, fitter and with more form on the board. Or in other words, exactly where the Waratahs want them.

Or in the words of Muhammad Ali, "I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want." And maybe to stretch the analogy just that bit further, maybe even this one, "It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe".