Now that they’ve rediscovered their mojo, NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is sweating on his Wallabies stars surviving the June Test window unscathed before the Super Rugby season resumes.
The Waratahs’ 45-25 victory over the table-topping Chiefs in possibly the best game of the year emphatically proved to Gibson his team can not only make the finals but also be a genuine title force.
But with a raft of his Tahs on national duty for the next five weeks, Gibson knows it will be difficult to maintain the momentum from their pulsating six-tries-to-four triumph over the competition leaders.
“For 10 of our guys they’re straight into a big June series. My biggest concern is how we come out of that,” he said.
“That’s going to be huge, a Test series against England with a lot at stake.”
One player the Waratahs are certain to have back when the competition continues is winger Taqale Naiyaravoro after the Fiji-born giant cut short a stint with Glasgow to return to Sydney.
With Matt Carraro injuring a groin so badly he was unable to finish Friday night’s game, leaving the Waratahs with 14 men for the final five minutes, Gibson says Naiyaravoro will be a handy addition.
But he will be ineligible for the finals, should the Waratahs – who face the Sunwolves, Hurricanes and Blues in their last three regular season games – edge out the Brumbies for Australian conference honours.
Having witnessed the Waratahs dispatch his benchmark outfit with their most complete performance of the season, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted the 2014 champions were once again a force to be reckoned with.
But he wouldn’t predict who would win the Australian conference and a guaranteed finals berth.
“You look at it – the Brumbies beat the Hurricanes by 50 first up and we put a similar score on the Brumbies and we beat the Hurricanes by one, so it’s just what it is on the day,” he said.
The only certainty is the Waratahs will resume their title push with renewed confidence in Tokyo on July 2 after becoming the first Australian side in 10 attempts to conquer a Kiwi team in 2016.
“Australian teams have been criticised a lot around how we can’t play against New Zealand sides,” Gibson said.
“You have to put that in perspective: the Chiefs are the No.1 team in New Zealand, and rightly so.
“We have come out and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with the champion team and we performed very well.
“It shows, given a dry track and the right mindset, Australian teams can compete, so I am very proud.
“It’s the type of rugby we’ve been wanting to play all season.”