Wild weather whips Waratahs

Wild weather forced an aborted landing in Dunedin and left the Waratahs stranded in Christchurch overnight, with Friday’s fixture against the Highlanders in doubt if the adverse conditions continue.

The plane carrying the New South Wales side approached Dunedin Airport through a mass of cloud only to emerge 100 metres above the runway, before being buffeted by 60km/h winds that forced a rapid ascent and redirection to Christchurch.

“We couldn’t land, the crosswinds in Dunedin were too much for the plane we were in and there’s flooding around Dunedin so we can’t get there by road, either,” NSW coach Ewen McKenzie told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“So we’ll stay here and try our luck (Thursday), but I don’t think there’s any certainty about (Thursday), either. Maybe we’ll have to move the game up here if it’s flooded down there. The Crusaders are out of town so we can play in Christchurch. Anything’s possible at the moment.”

The flooding in towns surrounding Dunedin is preventing road access, and no break in the weather is predicted prior to Friday night’s scheduled clash.

Last night, the Waratahs were forced to find accommodation in the city they recently visited for their round-nine loss to the Crusaders. After naming an unchanged team from their win over the Brumbies, they trained under lights as they tried to keep their preparation on track.

“It was a little bit unnerving, by the time you came through the clouds there wasn’t much distance left to the ground, but in the end I guess everyone’s comfortable with safety first.”

McKenzie’s comments were endorsed by prop Matt Dunning, who was nominated by teammates as the player least comfortable in the air.

“I’m happy to go to Christchurch,” said Dunning on firm ground at Christchurch Airport. “I’d rather be in Christchurch now than spread all over the tarmac in Dunedin.”

“It was a bit terrorising, the landing there. I was saying to (prop) Al (Baxter) I thought we were about three feet (one metre) off the ground before the pilot changed his mind.”