Waratahs play down finals talk
May 19, 2013
Michael Cheika is content with the Waratahs' progress © Getty Images
New South Wales Waratahs refuse to talk finals football despite continuing their impressive roll towards the Super Rugby play-offs with a gritty win over the stumbling Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The Waratahs' 28-22 triumph saw them achieve three consecutive Super Rugby wins for the first time in three years, bumped the Brumbies off the top of the ladder, and raised the possibility of three Australian sides qualifying for the finals. The Waratahs remain eighth on the table, but only three points adrift of the top six, after backing up victories over the defending champions, the Chiefs, and last year's runners-up, the Stormers, with yet another backs-to-the-wall comeback win.
Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes came off the bench to spark a second-half revival, for the second week running, before winger Peter Betham clinched victory with a converted try six minutes from full-time. But with Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau requiring surgery for a broken arm and probably out for the rest of the tournament, coach Michael Cheika continues to play down NSW's finals prospects.
"Look, we're still from what I can gather well down the ladder and we're trying hard to become competitive," Cheika said. "I've learnt as a coach that predicting all that stuff only leads to disappointment. There's no point in me predicting it. It's about planning for our next game and trying to get it right because if I predict it and it's wrong, I look like a goose."
Both coach and captain Dave Dennis are focusing solely on the Waratahs' next must-win derby, against Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Stadium on Friday night. "It's a very, very important game for us on Friday," Dennis said, noting the Rebels would be brimming with confidence after downing the Stormers 30-21. "It's a big game and they'll be up for it. Until we're in that finals position at the end of rounds, we probably won't be talking much about the finals."
Cheika acknowledged Polota-Nau was "pretty crook" and was likely to be sidelined for six weeks or more."Hopefully he's not, but we're preparing for that situation," he said.
New South Wales Waratahs celebrated a hard-fought won over the Brumbies (video available only in Australia)
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton