The New South Wales Waratahs, or simply referred to as the Waratahs, are an Australian professional rugby union team that plays in the Super Rugby competition. It represents most of New South Wales.
The name and emblem of the team derives from the waratah, the state flower for New South Wales, and Waratahs’ colours are Cambridge blue and navy blue. The colours have long been associated with New South Wales.
The Waratahs have a long history that dates back to the club’s founding in 1882. One of the most famous Waratah teams from their early days was the 1927/28 side, who toured the United Kingdom, France, and North America. Their style of play was characterised by open, running rugby that has marked Australian rugby ever since. They won 24 and drew two of their 31 official matches and received a parade through Sydney and a reception at Town Hall on their return to Australia.
In their first season in Super 12 which began in 1996, the Waratahs endured an indifferent campaign and finished mid-table in 6th place. The next season in 1997 they finished in 9th. In the next few seasons, they repeatedly failed to reach the finals stages, until eventually in 2002 they enjoyed a breakout campaign.
The Waratahs broke records as they won eight out of 11 games that season, earning them 2nd place in the league. They advanced to the semi-final for the first time, which they lost soundly to the Brumbies by a scoreline of 51–10. A few years later in 2005, the Waratahs enjoyed their best season yet, finishing 2nd overall and reaching the Super Rugby final, which saw the Waratahs lose against the Crusaders.
In their first Super 14 campaign in 2006, when the competition expanded, the Waratahs enjoyed a fine season that would ultimately end in disappointment. The Waratahs finished in 3rd place in the overall standings and made the semi-final. Just before their semi-final their star player Wendell Sailor tested positive for an illegal substance and faced a career ending ban from the game. He would be banned for two years. In the semi-final, they faced off against the Hurricanes in Wellington, narrowly losing 16–14 in a heart-breaking defeat and bitter end to an impressive campaign.
This disappointment carried over into a poor 2007 season in which the Waratahs won only three games and finished second to last on the ladder. The only positive of the season was the rise of Kurtley Beale, who would go on to help them enjoy a successful campaign in the following season.
The 2008 season began slowly for the Waratahs, but they soon gained momentum and finished in 2nd place overall. They won a home semi-final against the Sharks, and advanced to their first Super 14 final, which they would play against the Crusaders, a repeat of the 2005 Super 12 Final. They ended up losing the game 20–12.
In the 2011 season when the competition expanded to 15 teams, the Waratahs finished 5th in the overall standings. They lost to the Blues in the qualifying final. They then endured two disappointing seasons following this, in which they failed to make the playoffs.
In 2014, however, the Waratahs enjoyed an outstanding season that remains the best in their history. The Waratahs won the Australian conference by a 13-point margin over the second-placed Brumbies. The Waratahs played their 8th semi-final that season, easing past a very good Brumbies side 26-8 and earning them a home final against the Crusaders. The final was played at Stadium Australia with 61,823 spectators. The game ended up being an extremely tight affair with two tries a piece, six penalties each, and the Crusaders up 32–30. One conversion was the difference. The tide turned when Richie McCaw conceded a penalty in the 79th minute. Bernard Foley’s 45m penalty kick earned the Waratahs a lead of 33–32. The Waratahs had finally beaten the Crusaders in a final and won their first Super Rugby title.
The Waratahs squad for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season consists of the following players:
The Waratahs played at the old Sydney Football Stadium, which they shared with soccer team Sydney FC and rugby league team Sydney Roosters. The stadium had a capacity of 45,500.
Sydney Football Stadium closed for renovations in 2019, and during this period until 2022, the Waratahs played their home games at CommBank Stadium, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Brookvale Oval, and at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
The Waratahs are now back at the revamped Sydney Football Stadium, known commercially as the Allianz Stadium, which was officially opened in August 2022. The team still shares the ground with Sydney FC and the Sydney Roosters.
If you’re interested in following the NSW Waratahs and keeping up with their upcoming fixtures and all the latest updates, visit the team’s official website.