The trans-Tasman Super Rugby drought wasn’t at the forefront of the Waratahs’ minds on Saturday night, but captain Michael Hooper is pleased the regular footnote is no more.
The Waratahs broke a near-two year streak on Saturday night, beating the Highlanders 41-12 and Hooper admitted it was a relief that the end of those questions might finally be here.
“To have that stuff put behind and speak about another great challenge next week in the Chiefs down there (is really good),” he said.
“This team's really enjoyable to be around at the moment.
“You've got guys all putting up their hands, wanting to get on the field, wanting to add.
“That was a real pleasing part for me tonight is guys wanting to contribute and wanting to take that moment into their own hands and doing something with it.”
The Waratahs had an extra man for 63 minutes of the match, after a red card for HIghlanders winger Tevita Nabura, and were against 13 when Aaron Smith was binned, a scenario that was not dissimilar to their own card woes in Christchurch last week.
Hooper said he was happy with the way the side took advantage of the Highlanders’ personnel deficiency, strategically.
“From last week, where we probably didn't manage the game well, this week I thought the boys really started, particularly in that second half, to work where they were short, work where we could get one up on them and our set piece was able to give the platform for our game managers to pick them off and run in some really nice tries,” he said.
Coach Daryl Gibson said a mental shift in his team was a critical element against the Highlanders.
“We started last week, or probably started against the Blues and really took a good step towards being the team that we know this team can be,” he said.
“That's half the battle what's inside your head and tonight we played with some confidence, scored some excellent tries and I'm just really pleased for the boys.”
The result, which puts the Waratahs six points clear at the top of the Australian conference, will buoy the side, ahead of a trip to New Zealand to face the Chiefs.
“What this team will gain from this performance tonight is confidence,” Gibson said.
“They can go over there and they know if we play with our ability, it's going to be a cracking game.”
The Waratahs take on the Chiefs on Saturday May 26, kicking off at 7:35pm local. 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.