The NSW Waratahs know only too well the Crusaders love to feast on mistakes, but the defending Super Rugby champions insist they won’t be playing conservatively in Saturday’s clash of the 2014 finalists at ANZ Stadium.
The Waratahs will have to slash their inflated error rate of recent weeks if they are to topple the seven-time champions again and retain control of their finals destiny.
Their 33-18 scoreline against the Sharks at Allianz Stadium last Saturday flattered the titleholders, in a game where the hosts’ 12 handling errors and 18 turnovers offset Bernard Foley’s record-equalling 23-point haul.
That followed their shock 18-11 loss to wooden spoon candidates Western Force, a lacklustre performance punctuated by 20 turnovers to the Force’s seven.
Scrum-half Nick Phipps admits his side have a lot of work to do before this weekend’s showdown, citing 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.”
With the Brumbies sitting idle on their bye weekend, a win against the Crusaders 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.
Phipps said he was under no illusions the Waratahs were well off their best form against the Sharks, but took confidence from improvements in intent and detail following their humiliating showing against the Force.
And the Wallabies halfback made it clear his side won’t be afraid to take chances against the New Zealand outfit.
“There’s no point in playing in your shell because then you won’t really have those opportunities to play the style you want, and we won’t get those opportunities to get the points on the board,” Phipps said.
“I think if anything we’ve just got to be a bit tighter around our carriers (and) tighter at the breakdown, and then our play will hopefully get us in around the park where we want to be.”
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.
“We’ve got a pretty big week ahead of us, and the coaches made that pretty clear after the game on the weekend that that performance wasn’t good enough to go toe to toe with the champions.”