Used to teams trying to slow them down, the NSW Waratahs are planning to do the same thing to the Highlanders in Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final.
Waratahs attack coach Daryl Gibson has identified the fast-paced style of the Highlanders as a key component of their game.
“We need to try and put the brakes on them to try and slow them down, and try and dictate the tempo of the game that we want to play,” Gibson said.
Gibson felt conditions at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium might help the Waratahs cause, as he said the Highlanders were used to playing on a fast surface under the roof of their home ground in Dunedin.
“The ground out here is going to slow them down a bit and so we certainly don’t fear their style, but we know we’re in for a good challenge,” Gibson said.
Although the Waratahs haven’t been winning by the big margins they did last year, they have only scored five fewer tries and won one less match than they did in 2014.
“I think we’re maturing,” Gibson said.
“We’ve had to win games this year a different way.
“Particularly in the last two or three games, we’ve scored tries from different sources of possession, which has been very pleasing.
“We’ve talked all year about how our game has to evolve, we have to be better than what we were last year and find different ways to win.
“I think we’re doing that currently and we see some opportunities in the Highlanders we think we can get at.”
Gibson was also encouraged by the timely spike in form of some of the Waratahs strike weapons.
“The signs are good for us, we’ve got our gun players coming into form,” Gibson said.
“You’ve seen Israel Folau over the last two or three weeks really come into his own, he’s looking particularly dangerous.
“We’ve got a number of players who are coming close to their best form and you need that in a finals series. You need all your players to be close to their best.”
The Highlanders tallied one more competition point than NSW over the season, but ended up two places lower on the overall ladder, as they only finished second in the New Zealand conference while the Waratahs topped the Australian section.
“The good thing for Australia is you’ve got two teams in the semi finals, it’s proof that the conference here is very vibrant and very competitive,” Gibson said.