Waratahs and Brumbies set for 'Origin' showdown
May 18, 2013
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis believes a number of unheralded New South Wales players could still force their way into the Wallabies squad for the Lions series.%]
It'll be Super Rugby's very own State of Origin at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, when New South Wales Waratahs host the Brumbies in the biggest Australian derby of the season. The ACT might not be a state. And there won't be a maroon jersey in sight.
But semantics aside, the blockbuster clash shares all the right similarities with rugby league's showpiece event of mate against mate.
"You could call it that," NSW skipper Dave Dennis said after leading the Waratahs on his captain's run on Friday. "Obviously that's a strong part of league every year, that State of Origin, and it would be great to have a rivalry built up like that each year. We play the (Queensland) Reds and we treat that as a pretty big game as well. "It's not hate, but there's a genuine feeling there that spurs you to go a bit harder.
"We're mates when it comes to Wallaby level but once we get out there tomorrow, there's a pretty clear message that we want to get one over them. It's going to be a physical game and all the boys are looking forward to it."
While the Waratahs' entire season goes on the line as they cling desperately to their finals dream, the front-running Brumbies are intent on retaining their Australian conference lead over the chasing Reds.
Dennis admitted the Waratahs were also "trying to earn a little bit of respect back" after a couple of lean campaigns and a 35-6 shellacking at the hands of the Brumbies last outing in March. And of course Wallabies spots are up for grabs for next month's eagerly-awaited series with the British & Irish Lions.
"There's a lot at stake here," Brumbies coach Jake White said on Friday. "People know how big these derbies are, especially the Brumbies versus the Waratahs. It's been one of those weeks where we haven't had to say much. The boys know how much it means."
Without saying much, though, the ever provocative White no doubt would have stoked some Waratahs fires.
"Mentally, all the boys know that all the talk that has come out of the Waratahs about how well they've been doing," he said. "Obviously they know they're in the run for the finals now, so the (Brumbies) boys are aware of what will be asked of them. But we've got full confidence in our playing group as a coaching staff that if we do what we have to do and what we've been doing at training that we will get a result."
NSW coach Michael Cheika said pre-season it would take the Waratahs 12 to 14 weeks to adjust to his ball-in-hand style and his prediction has proven bang on.
"He has been pretty accurate with a lot of the things he said this year," Dennis said. "Maybe the boys didn't believe that in a sense. Maybe they thought it was going to happen a bit quicker and we would get results a bit sooner. The last month we have really grasped how we want to play and you've seen that with the results.
"We are still not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We have a long way to go as a team and as a club. We'll just keep working on it. Saturday is a big step for us. A big test. A big step up in terms of how we want to play and where we are going."