No favourites at Waratahs

Getty Images     07 Feb 2013     Getty Images

The Waratahs will play their second trial match against the Blues on Saturday before rounding out their pre-season preparations against the Crusaders in Sydney next Thursday night.

Cheika surprised his players on Wednesday when he announced back-rower Dave Dennis as captain just 20 minutes before the season launch.

And the no-nonsense mentor plans to keep his players guessing when it comes to selection for the season opener against the Reds on February 23, declaring form in the final two trials against the Blues and Crusaders will be key.

"Everyone's got to be afforded an opportunity, and there's no good me imagining a best side," Cheika said.

"It's got to be a best side based out of performances that they've delivered perhaps in the recent past and then in the practice matches in particular.

"There are a lot of new guys who are putting their hands up for selection."

Asked if past deeds will be taken into account, Cheika said he'll make some concessions for his Test stars.

"There's a certain credit that players who have been playing in the national team (will receive)," he said.

"They're a little bit disadvantaged in the fact that I won't let them play all the trials to make sure they get the right fuel in the tank for the season ahead because they came back so late.

"So they are afforded a certain amount of credit points obviously but when their opportunity comes, some of them this weekend and then some of them next Thursday, they'll have to take that opportunity."

New skipper Dennis confirmed the unpredictable Cheika has created a newfound competitive edge within the squad since taking the reins.

"I came back late after last year's (Wallabies spring tour) and there's a definite change that I've experienced, and it's a positive one that's great to be a part of," he said.

"Probably in the past we've taken the foot off the pedal a bit in terms of how we've prepared and how we've challenged each other and every spot now is highly competitive, and I think that's what you need to be successful and he's created that from day one."

Meanwhile, Cheika expects Berrick Barnes to be available for the Reds clash despite injuring his knee in a training mishap.

"Berrick took a little knock at training on Tuesday ... it's a new injury and I don't feel it's going to impede him playing in the Queensland match but I'd really like him to get out there against the Crusaders next week."