The year the Reds won Super Rugby they suffered a humiliating 24-point loss to the Waratahs in round two.
It was the last time for the next three seasons that the Queenslanders would surrender to their arch rivals, so bitter was the taste of that four-try demolition in front of 33,000 people at ANZ Stadium.
But after at least two close-run affairs during that period and this year’s two-try display from debutants Israel Folau and Ben Volavola in the opening round, Waratahs captain Dave Dennis thinks it’s time the Reds reprised that losing feeling.
He believes the team is in their best position yet to deliver the Reds a pre-finals comedown at the same ground, in front of nearly as many supporters, on Saturday night.
”With all the work we’ve put in this year and how far we’ve moved forward from that first round, it does give us a sense that we’re well placed to knock them off this weekend,” he said. ”We’re definitely heading out to Homebush to do that, we’re not just going out there for a run around to finish the year, we’re going out there to win. The boys will be motivated to achieve that and end that little bit of a losing streak we’ve had against them in the past.”
There are many reasons why this game will not be the dead rubber it has been painted as in the aftermath of the British and Irish Lions tour, with the Reds secure in a finals berth and the Waratahs playing for pride.
Dennis, for one, hasn’t had a game in a month and is itching to don the Waratahs jersey for one last time this season. The new Wallabies coach, Ewen McKenzie, will have a small section of his brain devoted to scoping out potential Test players.
In addition, some of the squad’s favourite sons, including Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, John Ulugia and Tom Carter, will be playing their last for the province. But there is also a point to prove for the Waratahs, who have spent the season trying to change bad habits.
”That game in Brisbane [in round one] we lost on the back end of something we’ve been trying to change all year,” Dennis said.
”We clocked off and missed a poor couple of tackles late in the game and they got a try, so it’s something we’ve been trying to work on, that attitude of staying in the game for the full 80 minutes. We’ve still got work to do there but I like to think on Saturday we won’t have that as an issue against these guys.”
The Reds and the Waratahs are missing big names, which will provide a fascinating insight into the stripped-back base lines of both Super franchises.
”Apart from the first couple of games where we were still trying to find our feet, for the last probably seven or eight games of the competition I felt as though we were capable of beating any other team,” Dennis said.
”The Reds probably got a bit more confidence than we do because they’re in a position where they can play for a home final and are competing in the finals for the third year in a row, but in terms of the two teams matched up head-to-head, I don’t think there’s much in it.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.