The Waratahs are going to have to play their best game of the year to overcome a red-hot Crusaders outfit, captain Michael Hooper says.
NSW is on a four-match winning streak but have played just one side from the dominant New Zealand conference this season, losing to the Highlanders in round three.
The Crusaders’ eight-game streak was ended last weekend, but the Canterbury side still has the best record across the competition.
Hooper said the Waratahs would need to be on their attacking game, after playing three forward-dominated South African sides in recent weeks.
“Our attack needs to be sharper,” he said.
“We can’t give them turnover ball, they make the most of that and the ball’s in play a long time.
“You’ve got to expect anything. We saw that from their game last week (against the Highlanders).
“They were amazing with ball in hand and it came down to the wire.
“We've got to be really on our game and play our best game of the year.”
A win would give the Waratahs a five-point buffer at the top of the Australian conference, with the second-placed Brumbies on a bye this week.
There will be a bit of extra history between the two sides when they meet , with coach Daryl Gibson a former Crusaders player and assistant coach, and reserve winger Zac Guildford an ex-Crusaders as well.
Gibson didn’t want to front the media ahead of the reunion but Hooper said the coach wasn’t worried about the clash.
“I don’t think he’s been on edge,” he said.
“He seemed more on edge as an assistant back in the day and it was one of the first times he played them.
“Now he's a Waratah through and through and he’d love to see us get a win tomorrow.”
Hooper said Gibson’s intimate knowledge of the Crusaders, though they are a much-changed outfit this time around with no Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, would be invaluable.
“He knows what they try and do,” he said.
“He knows the way they try and play football, what their backs are doing.
“While that is good I’m sure that they know that as well so they’ll try and maybe change things up knowing that he’s got that insight but it is of benefit for us.”