Confident: Peter Betham throws a last-gasp inside ball in the Waratahs’ trial against Auckland Blues on February 7. Photo: Anthony JohnsonWaratahs winger Peter Betham is fully aware of the danger of the Force back row stifling vital ball supply to the NSW back line in Sunday’s Super Rugby clash at Allianz Stadium.
But the New Zealand-born flyer says the threat will not provide just cause for the Waratahs failing to showcase the potency of the NSW back line. Such is Betham’s new strength of mind, galvanised by the confidence he gained from his performances last year that lead him to make his Wallabies Test debut.
Betham, 25, says he realises the quality of ball the NSW backs receive from their formidable forward pack will depend on their West Australian opposition. “Especially with the type of back row the Force always produce, it’s definitely going to be a battle at the breakdown,” he said. “It’s not an excuse for the backs to not play. We are definitely going to make gains.”
This time last year the former Brumbies and Rebels player was at the dawn of a new season with the Waratahs that would end with him scoring five tries from 15 games in Super Rugby. Last year also saw the Sydney University winger play his first – and so far only – Test for the Wallabies: in the starting side that lost 41-33 to the All Blacks in Dunedin.
Asked about his mindset on the eve of season two under Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, Betham said: “I am quietly confident. That lack of confidence which led to errors in games [beforehand] is pretty much a no-go for me. That [confidence] is one thing I will take into this season. I will put my [best] foot forward. It won’t stop me from doing the same things that I do.”
Betham, who has 24 Super Rugby caps, says he is physically superior now: “I am getting faster,’’ he said. ‘‘My general fitness is going pretty well, so when it comes to fitness your numbers generally get a bit higher with your speed.”
With this new speed and confidence, Betham hopes he will be more assured and effective on the field – from anticipating opportunities to running on to the ball. “It’s [about] getting the confidence up and putting yourself in situations where you are under pressure but confident in your ability to get the job done,” Betham said.
It helps being in a Waratahs back line that offers so much strike power and laden with various options in attack with Nick Phipps at No.9, Bernard Foley at No.10, Kurtley Beale at No.12, Adam Ashley-Cooper at No.13, rookie Alofa Alofa at No.14 and Israel Folau at No.15.
“It is a back line that has matured, and [with] the additions we have had with Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps, it [has] more firepower,” Betham said. “It’s just about getting the right combinations on the day. It’s not exactly [that] the best players will be on the field, but the best players on the day will be on the field.”
Betham rates Foley’s skills at five-eighth highly: “There are a lot of things of his game that are unseen – his communication skills, his leadership role in the team.”
As for the competition for the NSW wing slots, heightened by Alofa’s push into the starting side after joining the Waratahs squad from the ranks of Shute Shield rugby? “It’s definitely healthy competition,” Betham said. “Having guys like Alofa is refreshing and it adds a different dimension to our back line.”