After a fruitless series against England, the NSW Waratahs’ Wallaby representatives want to convert their hunger for wins into vital victories for their Super Rugby side, starting this weekend in Tokyo.
With three rounds remaining, the Waratahs and Brumbies are level on points, with the Canberra-based franchise occupying top spot in the Australian conference by virtue of having logged one extra win.
The Brumbies have the chance to sneak ahead with a home win on Friday over the Queensland Reds while, on Saturday, the Waratahs play Japan’s Sunwolves.
NSW are only sixth in the Australasian group, leaving them one place outside the final wildcard spot.
Coach Daryl Gibson conceded the Brumbies were in the box seat with a slightly softer looking run home than his team.
The Brumbies have home games against the struggling Reds and Western Force with a trip to Auckland to play the Blues sandwiched between those matches.
NSW finish off against the Blues at Eden Park, but face a tricky home game against the Hurricanes after Saturday’s assignment in Japan.
Gibson believes both the Brumbies and Waratahs will make the playoffs if they each win all their remaining games.
“The Brumbies have got the easier road home there,” Gibson said.
“If we win our three games, we’re pretty confident we’ll pick up that wildcard spot.”
Halfback Nick Phipps is the only Wallaby rested from the Waratahs’ starting side following the three-Test series against England.
Captain and flanker Michael Hooper was given an extended break following the final Test, but Gibson said all of his Wallabies had expressed the desire to play this weekend.
“I feel really refreshed personally and really keen to go this weekend,” Hooper said.
“The biggest thing for all us Wallabies coming back to the Tahs is we want to be part of a winning team again and we’re hungry for that.
“As hungry as we were in that (England) series, we’re coming back and looking to translate that into Waratahs wins.”
With such a tight battle at the top of the conference, Hooper and Gibson admitted the Tahs couldn’t ignore the importance of trying to get a bonus point against the battling Sunwolves, who had won just one of 12 games.
Giant Wallabies winger Taqele Naiyaravoro will play his first match of the season for NSW after returning from Scotland, but Gibson said the big back was short of match fitness and needed to lose weight.
Gibson said Wallabies back Kurtley Beale was expected to remove his brace over the next week after suffering a torn patella tendon in May, but probably wouldn’t be ready to make his debut for English club Wasps until around Christmas.