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Tahs must lift or risk getting Caned

New.com.au
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Update: 7:21PM THE Waratahs must emulate the resurgent Hurricanes if they are to beat them this weekend.

Just a month ago the Kiwi franchise was in such disarray that calls for coach Mark Hammett's head became screeching demands and he duly obliged by announcing that this will be his final season in charge of the Wellington team.

After six rounds of Super Rugby the Hurricanes were languishing at the bottom of the New Zealand conference while the Waratahs were flying high, seven places above them on the ladder.

Five games later, and with Hammett's end-of-season departure sorted, the Hurricanes have jumped from 12th to third while NSW has slumped to sixth.

After the Canes scored their fourth straight win last Saturday against Queensland, skipper Conrad Smith said his team had managed to block out the criticism of their early defeats and retain belief that their game would click.

NSW must harness that same belief in their game after being shut down defensively by the Brumbies, Sharks, Force and Blues in their past seven outings.

Their clash against the Canes at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night will have enormous ramifications for their season; NSW would drop out of the top six for the first time this year if they lose, with a bye to come the next week.

The Hurricanes have all the momentum while the Tahs have the unbeaten home record.NSW coach Michael Cheika is still scratching his head over the diabolical number of blown chances his side wasted in their defeat to the Blues last Friday.

Not usually known for his witty puns, Cheika delivered a beauty when assessing the looming stoush against the Canes.

"One thing for sure is, if we drop that much ball, we'll get caned," Cheika deadpanned.

"Because they are the kings of counter-attack.

"They've got some devastating runners from broken play. So if you give them any wasted ball, theyll hurt you.

"A big focus for us this week is going to be around when we pass the ball, and when we keep the ball."

NSW raced out of the blocks at the start of the year with a blistering array of attacking potency and 16 tries in their first four games. Worryingly, they have only managed five tries from their past five matches.

This is a team still learning how to become a true competitor, Cheika said.

"Away from home, you know it's going to be close no matter what, so don't worry about trying to put the game away.

"Hold the ball, put the opposition under pressure.

"We're definitely trying to go for that final pass one phase too early.

"Against the Blues on the weekend, there were at least half a dozen times we could have held onto the ball for one more phase. It wouldn't have guaranteed that we'd score in the next phase, but it would have put us in the zone to score in the next phase.

"Poor decision-making around when that's on, and even taking quick taps and cross-field chips, they're poor decisions, so it's about rectifying the decisions, I don't think it's about the skill level."





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