Israel Folau is itching to get back on the park, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says it’s unfair to expect miracles from Super Rugby’s tryscoring ace against the Stormers in Cape Town.
Folau is on track for a return this weekend after missing NSW’s 32-10 drubbing at the hands of the table-topping Sharks in Durban on Saturday with a throat injury.
The superstar fullback only arrived in South Africa on Sunday but, providing he suffers no further setbacks, will be named in the starting line-up on Thursday.
“I’m feeling pretty good actually. My throat’s feeling fine and there’s nothing really I’m too worried about,” Folau told AAP on Tuesday night.
“I’m more than half a chance to play.”
Because of the torrid nature of the spiteful encounter with the Sharks, and niggling injuries to midfield playmaker Kurtley Beale and No.8 Wycliff Palu, Cheika has delayed naming his team by a day.
“It was a very, very physical encounter,” Cheika said.
“We’re giving everybody an extra day to get on top things.”
Although he’s almost certain to be picked, Folau must meet some strict medical criteria and prove he’s physically ready for the Stormers.
“He’ll have a good hit-out, run hard for a couple of sessions and then we’ll talk to the doctor at the end of the day,” Cheika said.
“We’ll make sure he wakes up the next day all good and then we’ll decide from there.
“But if he pulls up well, then that will be a positive sign for the doctor and, as long as he’s doing everything with everyone for the week, I think he’ll be right.”
Presuming Folau plays, it’s likely the Waratahs will revert to the backline that successfully piled on four tries in a bonus-point win over the Melbourne Rebels before heading to South Africa.
Cheika, though, said it would be unfair on Folau for fans to expect the competition’s leading tryscorer to waltz back in and reverse the Tahs’ fortunes after a disappointing display in Durban.
“Obviously that type of player is going to make a difference. I’m not naive of that fact,” Cheika said.
“But I still think he would have had limited opportunities last week because our attacking ruck wasn’t what it should be.
“(Halfback) Nick Phipps was always under pressure. There was always someone in there spoiling his delivery of the ball and, from there, it was always difficult getting any flow in the backs.”
Beale is still suffering from whiplash from a backslamming tackle from Francois Steyn, but is “very likely to play”, while Palu has a minor ankle injury.