NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika predicts his side will be entering a Super Rugby war zone against a rested Crusaders side on Saturday.
There’s plenty at stake for the 2014 grand finalists as they return to the venue of last season’s memorable title decider.
If NSW win they will go to the top of the Australian conference, vaulting the Brumbies, who have the bye this week.
Seven-times Super champions the Crusaders find themselves in the uncharacteristically low positions of ninth on the overall ladder and fourth in the ultra-competitive New Zealand conference.
Renowned for their late season surges, the Crusaders rattled up 58 points and eight tries in their last game against Queensland before having a bye last weekend.
Never one to shy away from a rugged contest, Cheika has foreshadowed a fiery encounter at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
“It’s going to be a war zone this weekend that’s for sure, It’s going to be a real battlefield,” Cheika said.
“I really think they are a fine team and they will be coming off a bye, fresh.
“The urgency in the rucks is going to be key.
“I think they will come hard at us in the rucks and we’re really looking forward to the physicality of the game and the challenge it’s going to bring.
“It’s going to be tight but at the same time open, because they like to spread the ball, as do we.”
Cheika is philosophical about the possibility the Tahs could lose a winger and successful rugby league convert for a second straight season.
Alofa Alofa headed to France following last season’s title triumph and Fijian powerhouse Taqele Naiyaravoro has reportedly signed with Scottish club Glasgow.
“We want to keep all the players here, but it doesn’t happen all the time and that’s the nature of the beast,” Cheika said.
“In Australia we also operate with a salary cap environment which the other countries don’t, so there’s restrictions.
“That’s the way it is, you can’t keep everyone.
“We try our best to keep the players here, but that’s professional sport.
“On one side it’s disappointing, on another side we’ve done a good job in helping those players arrive to a situation where they are getting benefit from the game as well.”