The Waratahs need a win in Perth this weekend and it’s a fact of which captain Michael Hooper is all too aware as the side prepares for Test match like rugby against the Force.
The do-or-die clash in Perth has the potential to effectively end the Waratahs’ run at a finals berth, after a 2-4 start to the season.
While he has maintained an optimistic outlook on his sides playoff chances, Hooper admitted a victory on Saturday would be important for morale and competition points.
“The last three weeks it would’ve been nice to get up but we need a win,” he said.
“We need a win for our spirit and to roll on and start building something.”
The Waratahs have received a timely boost for the do-or-die clash with Rob Horne and Tatafu Polota-Nau back into the match day 23.
Lock Dean Mumm has made way for Dave Dennis, with a knee complaint shifting the former to the bench for the clash.
Horne’s inclusion at left wing will be particularly critical, with his defensive ability set to be pivotal against a Force side that has been able to shut down an attack-heavy Waratahs side, Hooper said.
“Defensively comes to mind straight away, I mean Horney out there’s great,” he said.
“It’s not that anyone hasn’t been doing the job but he really gets up for that and Taf’s huge in the scrum and his presence just within the team’s great.
“It’s great to have those two back and a lot of experience in there and the chat’s been good this week from them talking about getting us right for this game.”
Hooper said they wouldn’t be psychologically scarred heading to Perth, despite their poor recent record.
“We’ve got more important things to think about that that and so we’re focusing on us,” he said.
“ A lot of about us, I know Daryl’s going to say it, I’m going to say it and have been saying it for the past two weeks but it really is where we can get this season back on track.”
“They’ve played some great strategy against us, made us play a lot of rugby in our own half put ourselves under pressure,” he said.
“They’re good players, really stuff your ball up. We’ve talked about playing an attacking game, attacking brand of rugby, (and they’re) really good at shutting that down.”
Hooper said they were prepared for Test match conditions against the Force, who will look to shut down the Waratahs’ run again.
“They’ve showed in the last three games they’ve beaten us how much they enjoy it and how much they get up for the game so it’s going to be physical, big contact but we need to have that game, need to have a different style of rugby,” he said.
“ We’ve been playing a lot of ball in hand, really exhausting games so this is going to be different, more Test match style, a lot of ball in the air and what we do on the ground when the ball’s not in our hands is going to be really important.”
Gibson has rewarded young hooker Hugh Roach and fullback Andrew Kellaway with starting spots again this weekend, something he says he has made a point of doing.
“I think the performances of our younger players has been really positive, they’re really keen and enthusiastic and we want to make sure that gets rewarded,” he said.
“They keep doing that and keep performing I’ll keep picking them.”