All business, the NSW Waratahs have borrowed a famous line from former Wallabies coach Alan Jones as they chase a statement win on Friday over Super Rugby’s table-topping Crusaders.
Just like Jones instructed his 1984 Wallabies to cross “business” on their arrivals card after landing in the UK for their grand slam tour, NSW captain Michael Hooper has made it clear to his charges the purpose of the Waratahs’ visit to Christchurch.
“It’s work for us. It’s not a holiday. We’re going over there to do a job and to do it well,” Hooper said.
“We need to be really good to beat this Crusaders team.
“Our attack, we’ll need to be sharp. We can’t afford to give them turnover ball.
“We’ve got to play our best game of the year.”
The Crusaders are riding a seven-match, 12-year winning streak over the Waratahs in New Zealand, but Hooper is focusing not on the hoodoo but his side’s recent edge over the seven-times champions.
The Tahs backed up their heart-stopping 33-32 victory over the Crusaders in the 2014 final in at Olympic Park with a 32-22 win in last year’s return showdown in Sydney.
“We’ve had really good results the past two years against them, last year being a really good performance,” he said.
“So we’ve taken a bit out of that, what can put them on the back foot.”
The Tahs are extra wary – but also heartened – after the Highlanders snapped the Crusaders’ eight-game winning run last start.
“They’ll be fired up from losing that game last week but, on the flipside, it was a really draining game,” Hooper said.
“I’ve watched a bit of that and it was rampant; the ball was in play a lot of minutes.”
A fifth successive win would push the Waratahs at least five points clear of the Brumbies atop the Australian conference three rounds out from the finals.
“It’s a really good opportunity to gap the Brumbies this weekend and, more importantly, for us as a group to play a really strong Kiwi team and a great opportunity to beat a really good outfit,” the captain said.
Hooper was doing all the talking after coach Daryl Gibson opted not to speak ahead of his return to Christchurch, where the former All Black won multiple titles as a player and rose to be assistant coach under Todd Blackadder.
Hooper denied Gibson was on edge and said the Kiwi mentor’s inside knowledge of the Crusaders could be decisive.
“He knows what they try and do. He knows how they try and play football – what their backs are doing,” the flanker said ahead of the Waratahs’ first clash with the Crusaders in the post-Richie McCaw-Dan Carter era.
“So while that is good, I’m sure they know that as well so they try and maybe change things up knowing he’s got that insight.
“It is a benefit to us, no doubt.”