With less than two weeks until the Super Rugby AU 2021 season kicks off with a grudge match between the Waratahs and Reds in Brisbane, new Tahs captain Jake Gordon says his young side is ready to bring flair and speed to the competition.
Shedding nine experienced players at the end of 2020, including Ned Hangian, Rob Simmons and Michael Hooper -- who will miss the Super season while playing in Japan -- the Waratahs will have their backs against the wall throughout the competition, but Gordon believes the injection of youth will see them win the Super Rugby AU title.
"We're a very enthusiastic group," Gordon told media at the Super Rugby AU launch in Sydney. "Obviously with age we've got about half the squad under the age of 22, so we're going to be an exciting team.
"We're going to play with a lot of flair and a lot of speed and really bring our conditioning into the game."
Enduring one of their toughest preseasons to date according to the captain, including tough, physical camps along the Central Coast, the Waratahs want to use their fitness as a weapon and run their opponents off the park.
"I think we're a very mobile team and that's definitely something we want to use to our advantage. We're unlucky that we don't have some massive guys here on the park, but we have some guys that hit hard like Lachie Swinton. So conditioning is a real strength of ours and we want to use it."
Currently facing a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle against the All Blacks in November, aggressive backrower Swinton will not be available for the Tahs' one pre-season clash against the Reds in Narrabri on Saturday, and Gordon remains uncertain if he will be available for their season-opening match after the Tahs' second pre-season fixture with the Brumbies was cancelled.
"He misses four games, so I'm not sure how that looks after the [missed pre-season] Brumbies game. He's not playing the trial match [this weekend] and I'm unsure about the Reds game.
"He's raring to go, he's not happy he's missing the trial.
"He's also been great [at training]; he's got a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy. He trains the way he plays. It's good to see a lot of guys see what he brings to training field and I'm `hopeful guys can replicate what he does."
Taking over the captaincy with the departure of Simmons to London Irish and Hooper to Toyota Verblitz on a short term deal, Gordon has no plans to imitate Hooper or his captaincy style, instead he plans to remain true to himself and lead through his actions.
"I've spoken to Hoops and Simmo, both very different guys to me. There's stuff I can take from both of them, but I need to be myself," he said
"I can't try to be Michael Hooper because I'm not him and I'd do a poor job if I was to do it anyway. There's a few things he told me that I'm definitely going to use.
"It's exciting, it's going to be tough, but it's something I'm excited for."
Despite the huge loss of experience and expectations on the Brumbies and Reds to return to the final in 2021, Gordon believes his side has the ability to stun the competition and go all the way to lifting the trophy in May.
"We want to win. We wouldn't do pre-season or train this hard to come second," Gordon said. "If we perform every week, we'll win the competition. I don't think we are in a position where we can go in and out of games.
"The way we want to play and the blueprint we have, we can beat the best. I think in the last four rounds of that Super Rugby AU competition was really how we want to play; the team we had we got some great results from that."