Heightened pressure in the cut-throat Australian conference is giving the NSW Waratahs extra motivation to knock over Super Rugby’s competition leaders in Durban this weekend.
With the Western Force, who have never made the playoffs, emerging as serious challengers to the Brumbies, NSW and Queensland Reds for conference honours, the Waratahs know away wins are more important than ever.
The Waratahs are on record as hoping to win all eight home games at Allianz Stadium this campaign and are aiming to pick up enough victories on the road to not only top the Australian conference but finish top-two overall.
Such lofty ambitions, and the tightness of the Australian conference, leaves the Waratahs hungry to storm the Sharks’ Kings Park fortress on Sunday morning AEDT.
“We obviously landed over here in South Africa to news that the Force had a good win and the Brumbies had another win, so it’s going to be a lot tougher than previous years – that Australian conference,” said Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis.
“When you play an Australian team, it’s like an eight-point game.
“So when you’re away from home and you’re playing in South Africa, which is usually a tough leg for all Australian teams, if you can pick up a couple of away wins it goes a long way to help you winning the Australian conference.
“But we’ve still got our sights set on that top-two on the ladder and we need to perform well this weekend if we’re any chance of achieving that.”
Five rounds into the competition, the Brumbies lead the Australian conference on 17 points, one ahead of the Waratahs – who have played one match less – with the Force (14) only three back after three straight wins.
The Reds are only on 10 points but have already played two games in South Africa.
NSW’s round-nine clash with the Force in Perth already shapes as pivotal, but the Waratahs first have to face the Sharks and then the Stormers in Cape Town.
“We’ve very much come over here not looking at it as a three-match block or anything. This match this weekend is our focus,” Dennis said.
“We always want to try to get four points out of each weekend first and foremost and, if we do that, that will kick off our trip on a good note.
“But pretty much all our energy this week is for the Sharks game.
“We’re lucky because we got over a day earlier than we normally do so we have plenty of time to get all the detail right to be able to perform well on Saturday.”