Chastened Tahs aim for Super Rugby lift
Disappointment is set to galvanise the chastened NSW Waratahs, for their Super Rugby quarter-final against a Highlanders side poised to bring back some of their biggest stars.
A lacklustre effort in their 40-31 home loss to the Brumbies on Saturday dropped NSW to third overall, propelling them into a tough elimination game against the Highlanders at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
“Every one of our players and all of us woke up this morning disappointed with the performance last night,” Waratahs attack coach Chris Malone said.
“I think that in itself will be a catalyst for ensuring that we get everything right this week.
“Obviously there’s the technical and tactical areas that we didn’t quite get right last night, so that will be what we will be concentrating on at our training this week.
“The sense of the occasion and the size of the occasion will bring everything we need in terms of the mental (side).”
The Waratahs smashed the Highlanders 41-12 in Sydney back in May, but the Kiwi side played most of the match a man down after winger Tevita Nabura was sent off in the 18th minute.
The Highlanders, who finished with as many wins and points as NSW, are expected to recall several key players for the game.
All Blacks backline superstars Aaron Smith and Ben Smith and Test backrower Luke Whitlock were all rested from Saturday’s final round win over Melbourne.
“They will come here full of energy and have got some quality players and quality All Blacks in that team,” Malone said.
“It’s our job as coaches to prepare the boys around what the Highlanders might bring tactically, but I think we saw last night just getting it right between the ears is probably the big thing that we need to do this week.”
Prior to losing in May, the Highlanders had won four straight against the Tahs including a 2015 semi-final win in Sydney.
After lambasting their players for looking too far ahead, the Tahs coaching panel isn’t about to dwell on a seemingly more treacherous passage to the final.
“If you don’t win the quarter-final there’s no point thinking about anything beyond that and then you just see how it plays out,” Malone said.
“We’ve been to the Crusaders this year and scored a heap of points and should have won a game.
“On the road we haven’t struggled to be in games.”
Captain Michael Hooper, who acted as water boy against the Brumbies, isn’t ready to return from the hamstring injury that kept him out of their last three matches.
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