Waratahs search for consistency in a brand new home

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Nick Phipps is hopeful the Waratahs can continue their winning tradition at new stadia - only with him also singing the team song in the shiny new sheds this time around.

The Waratahs will take on the Sharks at the BankWest Stadium in Parramatta on Saturday night, in what will be only the second game on the newly opened 30,000-seat venue. 

After the Parramatta Eels downed the Wests Tigers in the NRL on Monday afternoon, the Tahs’ clash will be the first night game at BankWest Stadium.

"I know that a lot of the boys would have watched the game here the other night, said Phipps at the Waratahs' captains run.

"There was a genuine buzz around the place, you could see that the players – the Eels boys – were having a really good time and obviously love playing at their brand new stadium and we get to be a part of that.

“It’s got a little bit of AAMI about it, but to be honest it it’s unique beast, you know all the stats about it, it’s the steepest it can be, it holds the noise as best as possible and it’s a truly unique rectangular field that not many teams in the world get to play in. 

"We’re very excited to be here, we’re super pumped, there’s that breathe of fresh air out here and we’re excited to start playing some great footy in front of our western Sydney fans.”

The Waratahs featured last time a new stadium - AAMI Park in Melbourne - opened up in 2011.

They thrashed the Rebels 43-0 that night and Phipps was one of the Rebels’ squad whose party was thoroughly spoiled.

"I was on the receiving end that night,” Phipps said.

"Awesome stadium, great buzz, those rectangular grounds you can’t beat them so we’re quite lucky to be here tomorrow night and hopefully playing in front of a big crowd.”

Given its a new venue, home ground familiarity won’t be a massive advantage for the Waratahs over the Sharks, particularly as they only had their first run at BankWest on Friday.

But Kurtley Beale, the most famous Waratah to hail from western Sydney, said he hopes the home ground advantage is felt via the support of a boisterous home crowd.

“It’s a great opportunity to come out and play in front of our western Sydney fans, I know there’s a lot of supporters out here who follow rugby union and Bankwest Stadium gives us an opportunity to play in front of those fans – hopefully a packed house, a lot of good support and create that really good atmosphere that everyone can enjoy at a rugby match,” Beale said.

“They will be the difference when you’re playing at a new stadium like this having 20,000 fans, 30,000 fans out here supporting you all the way to the 80th minute definitely gives the team and extra arm and a leg to go out there and put on a special performance.”

The Waratahs have been a rollercoaster in 2019 with strong performances followed by weak ones, and consistency has been a catch cry all week.

“We still feel our best footy isn’t out there,” Phipps said.

BankWest Stadium was sold out for the Eels-Tigers match. Photo: Getty Images"We’d had some great games and then we’d let ourselves down the next week. We’ve spoken about that this week. 

"We had a great game against the conference leaders the Rebels and it’s important for us to come back it up now. Consistency is what builds good teams and momentum’s really important, you can’t under value that so we’ve got to be playing our best footy here tomorrow night because the Sharks are coming here on tour.

"When you go on tour there’s that ‘nothing to lose attitude’ so they’ll be coming here to spoil the party, but it’s important for us to focus on how we want to play the game and put our best footy out on the field."

The Sharks are a dangerous entity after a similarly up-and-down season. They thrashed the Lions in Johannesburg but have lost their last two games against the Jaguares and the Reds.

Electric fullback Curwin Bosch has been shifted to no.10 and that move caught NSW by surprise, admitted Phipps.

"We’re going to have to be on our toes with him. To be honest we were probably focusing on him at fullback throughout the week,” he said.

"Their back three are explosive, you can’t just kick them the ball, can’t just slap them the ball mindlessly or they’ll make you pay on counterattack. Their speed, they’re quick on the feet, all that stuff that we’d been focusing on now with him at 10 they’re probably a little bit less predictable.

"We sort of thought that we had a bit of a grasp on them before, but now with him at 10 – to be honest, it’s a great idea from their coach.”

The Waratahs host the Sharks at BankWest Stadium at Parramatta on Saturday night, kick off at 7.45pm. Live on FoxSports and RUGBY.com.au Radio.

Shute Shield clubs West Harbour and the Western Sydney Two Blues will play in the curtain raiser from 5.15pm.