Emo­tional Cru­saders to test Tahs

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

NSW are out to prove they’re wor­thy ti­tle favourites when they tackle Su­per Rugby’s most suc­cess­ful side the Cru­saders tonight in Nel­son.

The Waratahs are dom­i­nat­ing the Aus­tralian Con­fer­ence and lead the Su­per competition over­all af­ter two rounds.

In thrash­ing Mel­bourne and Queens­land in their first two matches, the ’ Tahs didn’t con­cede a sin­gle try, but they re­alise they have a point to prove against the Cru­saders.

While the seven-time Su­per cham­pi­ons have been forced away from their home in Christchurch, their makeshift home at Trafal­gar Park in Nel­son will be burst­ing with emo­tion.

The Cru­saders didn’t play last week’s sched­uled match against the Hur­ri­canes as a mark of re­spect for the vic­tims of the Christchurch earth­quake, and this is their first chance to hon­our the peo­ple they rep­re­sent.

While rugby is in­signif­i­cant in the scheme of all the dev­as­ta­tion, play­ers re­alise tonight’s match is the 80-minute re­lease the peo­ple of Christchurch have been look­ing for.

The Waratahs’ record against the Can­ter­bury side isn’t pretty any­way, and Chris Hickey’s men know the task is go­ing to be even tougher this week given the cir­cum­stances.

‘‘ Play­ing the Cru­saders any week is tough but early on it’s go­ing to be very hard with their emo­tion run­ning high,’’ prop Al Bax­ter said.

‘‘( Emo­tion) will prob­a­bly get them through the first 20-30 min­utes but af­ter that you get into the game.

‘‘ I’m pretty sure it’ll get back into the nor­mal rhythm.’’

But by nor­mal rhythm, Bax­ter means what’s nor­mal for the Cru­saders. Al­though they lost their o p e n i n g c l a s h w i t h t h e High­landers, the Cru­saders are again one of the teams to beat – and NSW will need to rise to the phys­i­cal chal­lenge.

For­ward Dave Den­nis said the ’ Tahs would need to im­prove at the set-piece to chal­lenge an All Black-dom­i­nated for­ward pack.

‘‘ We have to take a step up there, par­tic­u­larly at the scrum, they’ve got an All Blacks front row, so def­i­nitely our phys­i­cal­ity around the park will need to im­prove,’’ Den­nis said.

‘‘ Against the Rebels and Reds we’ve won the tackle con­test and re­ally done well to get mo­men­tum to get over the ad­van­tage line so the backs have got that clean ball.’’ Get­ting NSW on the front foot will be even more im­por­tant with fly­half Daniel Halan­gahu com­ing in for his first start­ing ap­pear­ance of the sea­son in place of the in­jured Ber­rick Barnes.

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