THE Waratahs enter the biggest game of the season on a club-best eight-match winning streak after sweeping all before them in a record-breaking minor premiership campaign. NSW have scored the most tries, most points, conceded the fewest points and boast the competition's top try-scorer in Israel Folau and top point-scorer in Bernard Foley.
They are unbeaten in nine games at home, have won their past seven by an average of 24 points and are hosting their first final. Yet for all this, the one stat that has popped up more this week than any other is the Waratahs' 11-match losing run - including defeats in the 2005 and 2008 finals in Christchurch - to the Crusaders.
NSW coach Michael Cheika says history counts for nothing, but try telling that to Crusaders big guns Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and reigning world player of the year Kieran Read, a trio who have made a career out of winning the pressure moments in the matches that matter most. The Waratahs will start with 14 internationals in their run-on side, with winger Alofa Alofa yet to earn a Test cap, and arguably enjoy a backline edge.
The Crusaders have 11 Test stars starting and will look to target the Tahs at the set pieces, with the NSW scrum penalised twice against the Brumbies in last week's semi-final and the lineout wobblier than ever in the month since captain and chief caller Dave Dennis suffered a season-ending knee injury.
While the Waratahs are shooting for their first title in their third final, the mighty Crusaders are eyeing an eighth championship - but first since 2008 - in their 11th final.
NSW Waratahs v Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, 7.40pm
Head to head: Played 20; Waratahs 4, Crusaders 16
In Sydney: Played 8; Waratahs 3, Crusaders 5
Past 10 meetings
2013: Crusaders bt Waratahs 23-22, Christchurch
2012: Crusaders bt Waratahs 37-33, Sydney
2011: Crusaders bt Waratahs 33-18, Nelson
2010: Crusaders bt Waratahs 20-13, Christchurch
2009: Crusaders bt Waratahs 17-13, Sydney
2008: Crusaders bt Waratahs 20-12, Christchurch - FINAL
2008: Crusaders bt Waratahs 34-7, Christchurch
2007: Crusaders bt Waratahs 34-33, Sydney
2006: Crusaders bt Waratahs 17-11, Christchurch
2005: Crusaders bt Waratahs 35-25, Christchurch - FINAL