They are staring at a couple of citings, but the surging Waratahs’ credentials as big game performers received the ultimate stamp of approval from the most successful Super Rugby side of all.
With three rounds remaining, NSW finally climbed above the Brumbies into top spot on the AustralIan conference with a 32-22 home win over the Crusaders at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The bonus-point win moved them three clear of the Brumbies, who have set the pace throughout the year, but had the bye.
NSW jumped to second on the overall ladder, albeit a massive 16 points behind the Hurricanes, who scored a 12th victory in 13 matches with a 29-5 away win over the lowly Blues.
The Waratahs’ impressive effort in the 2014 grand final rematch added to their list of notable 2015 conquests.
They are the only team to have beaten the Hurricanes and have vanquished the Brumbies twice.
“They have really lifted the game for the big ones, they are a good side,” said Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, whose side now looks likely to miss the finals for the first time in 14 years.
The Waratahs head to South Africa on Tuesday, but forwards Tolu Latu and Will Skelton will each have an alleged foul play citing dealt with on Monday by a SANZAR judicial hearing.
Both men were involved in a lifting tackle on Crusaders and All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock.
The other three Australian teams in action all lost.
The Rebels’ chances of a first finals appearance almost certainly expired with a 31-15 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.
The loss left the Rebels in tenth spot, eight points off sixth position, while the Stormers moved top of the South African conference.
The Reds and Force remain second last and bottom respectively, after each lost at home to an overseas-based opponent.
Force went down 23-3 to the Highlanders and the Reds lost 21-14 to the Sharks, who ended a six-match losing streak.
Sharks halfback Stefan Ungerer scored two tries, the second coming after he caught a botched clearance kick from Reds star James O’Connor and dotted down uncontested.
The Bulls dropped from first to third in the South African conference and out of the top six with a 34-20 loss to the Chiefs in Rotorua.
The Lions, who host the Waratahs next weekend, moved to second in the South African conference and to within two points of sixth place, with a 40-17 away win over the Cheetahs in which five-eighth Elton Jantjies kicked 20 points.