The Waratahs will honour Dan Vickerman in their formalities on Saturday, but coach Daryl Gibson says their real tribute will be what comes after kick-off.
Gibson’s side will don black armbands and observes a minute's silence for the former Wallabies lock, who played 53 Super Rugby matches with the Waratahs and remained close to many of their coaching staff, including Nathan Grey and Chris Malone.
“I think Dan was of an era where a lot of these boys probably only saw him on TV. It's probably hit our coaching staff probably more so,” Gibson said.
“We're all very saddened by that news.
“This week the team has really focused on making sure we honour his legacy in the way that we play the game and the way that he approached the game every time he played for the Waratahs and we certainly want to display that this Saturday night.” - Daryl Gibson
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper just missed out on playing alongside Vickerman, but said his loss had been acutely felt throughout the team this week.
“I think there's guys within the team who have had direct contact with Daniel, a lot of playing time, spent a lot of memories with him, being in the room that we were sitting in this week,” he said.
“Obviously it takes a toll on the team and you celebrate a guy like that by training hard, growing on his legacy and all the great words that have come from a lot of great rugby people and people outside this week.”
Emotion aside, the Waratahs’ opening round match with the Force looms as a critical one, in a competitive Australian conference.
The Waratahs won the sides’ only match last year, snapping a three-match losing streak against the WA side, and Hooper said he hoped preseason changes would come to fruition on Saturday.
“They've played a game plan that we've really struggled with and they've executed it quite well, losing to them two times in a season, I think two years ago and things like that,” he said.
“For us, it is looking in our backyard, I know we say it so often and we go on about it but we really need to do the things that we've been training for so long now and put them out in our first competition game.
“Trials are great, they get you fit, they see where you're lacking a bit but when there's points up for grabs we really need to focus on ourselves and that's what this week's been about.”
The Waratahs are sweating on the fitness of Bernard Foley (concussion), while the Force will be missing Ben McCalman (thumb) and Matt Hodgson (hamstring) on Saturday.
The Waratahs host the Force on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:40pm AEDT.