Waratahs stand-in captain Jack Dempsey says ‘rugby fitness’ helped them to a rampant trial win over the Brumbies.
None of NSW’s big-name Wallabies stars featured in the clash, but the Waratahs still crossed for nine tries in a 53-17 win over a side that was close to the Brumbies’ strongest.
Dempsey said an altered preseason had focused less on running and more on rugby, preparing the team physically for the challenge of match play.
“We've changed a lot of stuff from last year in terms of what kind of fitness we're looking for, we took out a lot of that set, up and down running things and replaced it with rugby fitness,” he said.
“That's a credit to our S&C and our coaching staff. For me personally, I found it a huge difference. I feel a lot fitter - it's a different kind of fitness at the end of the day and huge credit to them.
The Waratahs played an attack-heavy brand of rugby, showcasing what coach Daryl Gibson called their ‘2017 identity’.
“We want to play fast, up tempo game, particularly at trial time,”he said.
“We want to test our skills and I thought we got there. We worked the ball well to the edges, got the ball to space and I thought we did well in parts.”
The performance of many of the next generation of Waratahs was the biggest positive for Gibson, with depth crucial in a brutal Super Rugby competition.
“(It’s only) trial one but it certainly makes us know that we've got a squad that can compete, withstand injuries and we've got that young, enthusiastic energy feel to us and I really like that.”
Dempsey was quick to praise the entire team’s effort in Mudgee, when asked who had impressed for him.
“Who didn't?,” he said.
“Being a forward myself and coming up against a forward-dominated team like the Brumbies, our whole forward pack was huge, led by Brad (Wilkin) and (Michael) Wellsy, seven and eight there who I was working with.
“They led the way I think. We pride ourselves on our workrate from one to eight and I think at the end of the day that's what got us through there.”
The Waratahs play the Brisbane Tens next week before a February 16 trial against the Highlanders.