The NSW Waratahs are planning to ditch their signature ball-in-hand game plan in search of a crucial Super Rugby win over the unbeaten Hurricanes on Saturday.
The Waratahs venture to Wellington with their title defence flat lining and bracing for a testing encounter in wind and rain.
The ugly forecast has forced last year’s stylish champions into modifying their approach, with skipper Dave Dennis revealing the Waratahs had never played a game in the wet since Michael Cheika took the coaching reins in 2013.
“We actually haven’t played in the wet for donkies. It will be interesting,” Dennis said before departing Sydney on Friday.
“I know we’re traditionally not big on kicking but we have little ideas around playing (for) territory and getting in behind them and just being smarter with our attacking options.
“Last week we were probably a bit one out, a bit one dimensional, and it was very easy for the Stormers to defend.
“There was a lot of disappointment after that game. The Stormers defended well but we felt like we didn’t really fire many shots at them.”
Having enjoyed historic success with his attacking approach, Cheika isn’t asking the Waratahs to abandon all flair.
“There’ll be a little less running obviously,” he said.
“If you watch teams, there’s some games in those conditions where everything sticks as well.
“It’s more adjusting your play on the ground because you’re always sliding, getting away from your support.”
It was a round-12 comeback win from 24-7 down against the Hurricanes in Sydney that sparked the Waratahs’ stunning revival last season.
Although it was vastly different conditions in Sydney on a sunny afternoon, Dennis admits he’s drawing confidence from that result.
“That was a big turning point for us,” he said.
“The guys are really excited about this opportunity – (against the) ladder leaders, away from home, a really good chance to play a quality team and that’s what we need. We need that challenge again.
“I’ve asked the boys to step up and go to another level, which we haven’t really found this year.”
Cheika said he was likely to go with six forwards on the bench, and just two backs, to get more punch from his reserves at the back end of the match.
With the likes of Jacques Potgieter, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Stephen Hoiles to call on, the last half hour could be decisive in a match the 10th-placed Waratahs must win to retain control of their finals fate.
“We understand – and this was the same last year – that you need to be in the top couple of places to have a real crack at it,” Dennis said.
“So we’re conscious of that.
“But, as you saw last year, we were about third in the conference by about round 10 or 11 and we ended up winning it.
“We feel if we play our style of rugby to a high level, that will sort itself out.”