The NSW Waratahs are pursuing for a perfect 2018 Australian Conference record this weekend, when they anticipate a big forward onslaught from the Brumbies at home.
A home win on Saturday will enable the Tahs to stitch up second spot on the overall ladder, meaning they will play both a qualifier and semi-final at home – if they are good enough to make it through to the second week of playoffs.
NSW clinched the Australian Conference last week, giving them seven wins from as many games against their rivals in-conference, including victories in each of their last three games.
The Brumbies’ small chance of making the playoffs could be extinguished by Saturday night’s game, but their great rivalry with the Tahs is expected to fire them up for a big performance at Allianz Stadium.
“We know that rivalry against the Brumbies has been a big a part of the history of Super Rugby for NSW and NSW people,” Tahs’ attack coach Chris Malone said.
“Also there’s the opportunity that this game is the last game that we play against Australian conference rivals (in 2018) and so far this year we’ve got an unblemished record and we want to maintain that.
“We had a game last weekend where we could run a lot, we were in open space a lot.
“I expect this game will be a lot tighter, there’s going to be a greater contest for possession at every ruck and it’s going to be about the physical contest this week as opposed to the running and the getting back on feet and the big metres that we had last week.”
The Brumbies have lifted in their last four games and Malone attributed that to their improved ball retention.
While NSW set franchise Super Rugby records of 12 tries and 77 points in last week’s demolition of the Sunwolves, they know they need to improve, especially in defence.
“We let in 25 points against the Sunwolves and that’s still not a very good defensive effort,” Waratahs’ lock Jed Holloway said.
“That’s what we need to improve on in order to get better and to compete with the teams like the Crusaders who we hopefully face four or five weeks down the track in that grand final.”