The NSW Waratahs must slash their recent error rate or face defeat in Saturday’s rematch of the 2014 Super Rugby finalists, warns halfback Nick Phipps.
The 33-18 scoreline in the Waratahs’ win against the Sharks last Saturday flattered the titleholders, and Phipps admits the defending champions have a lot of work to do before their weekend showdown with the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium.
He cited the Crusaders’ 58-17 demolition of the Queensland Reds two weeks ago as all the proof needed.
“Knowing the Crusaders, they just prey on mistakes,” Phipps said.
“You saw what they did to the Reds off a few mistakes there and they made them pay.
“Other teams wouldn’t be able to capitalise so effectively on that.
“So we’ve got to be pretty good this week to make sure that we’re limiting those opportunities on turnover ball and the mistakes made.”
The Waratahs made 12 handling errors and conceded 18 turnovers in their far-from-convincing victory over the Sharks.
That followed a shock 18-11 loss to wooden spoon candidates Western Force, in a lacklustre performance punctuated by 20 turnovers to the Force’s seven.
It’s a record the Waratahs have to remedy if they are to topple the Crusaders and retain control of their finals destiny.
With the Brumbies sitting idle on their bye weekend, a Waratahs win against the seven-time champions would guarantee them top spot in the Australian conference going into the final three rounds away to the Lions and Cheetahs and then home against the rejuvenated Reds.
The Crusaders are leaving their traditional strong end-of-season run to the finals a little later than normal, but their blistering performance against the Reds and the preceding round’s close 29-23 loss to the Hurricanes indicates they are still on track.
Coming off a bye week, they’ll be well rested when they return to the scene of last season’s final, which they lost on a controversial last minute penalty against All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
“We know exactly what they’re going to bring in the back end of the year. That’s when they peak and that’s when they’re their best,” Phipps said.
“They’re undoubtedly the best team that’s ever been in the Super comp, and them just reaching the final last year shows how hard they work.
“Now the same sort of thing’s happening just like in previous years.
“We’ve got a pretty big week ahead of us, and the coaches made that pretty clear after the game on the weekend that performance wasn’t good enough to go toe to toe with the champions.”