Waratahs home in on semi-finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Waratahs home in on semi-finals

By Darren Walton 16/05/2008 07:43:44 PM Comments (0)

Victory over Queensland on Saturday night will guarantee NSW a Super 14 home semi-final after the Blues did the Waratahs an almighty favour in Auckland on Friday night.

The Blues' heartstopping 19-17 win over the Hurricanes at Eden Park left NSW in the box seat to host a sudden-death playoff next Friday night at the Sydney Football Stadium.

While the Hurricanes remain in second spot, with the Blues climbing from sixth to third, the fourth-placed Waratahs are assured of a second-place finish if they post a fourth consecutive win over the Reds in the interstate grudge match at Suncorp Stadium.

The Waratahs are a perfect six from six at the SFS this campaign and the home-ground advantage in the semi-finals would be priceless.

But NSW flanker Rocky Elsom said the Waratahs had learned from painful past experiences that it would be dangerous to take victory over the Reds for granted.

Four years ago, in Ewen McKenzie's first season as coach, the Tahs ventured to Brisbane needing to score a bonus-point triumph in the last round to have any chance of squeezing into the playoffs.

In one of the great ambushes, the Reds stunned the Waratahs 23-7.

"You look back at 2004 when we really needed that win and they smashed us up there," Elsom said.

"So it's very similar circumstances.

"But we don't need any more reason to beat Queensland other than we just like winning and particularly beating them."

McKenzie said the Hurricanes-Blues result would not alter the Waratahs' tactics against the Reds.

"It doesn't change anything. Our preparation is about winning the game against the Reds," he said.

"We're going out to try and beat the Reds, so that's our plan.

"There's a chance to etch out another week or two if we're good enough.

"That's the challenge for us."

Anything less than victory would almost certainly scupper NSW's hopes of making the playoffs for the third time during McKenzie's five-year reign.

NSW lost the 2005 final to the Crusaders and the 2006 semi-final to the Hurricanes in Wellington and McKenzie said the Tahs were desperate to clinch their maiden Super title this time around.

"People forget that we've been in the final and been in the semi-final," McKenzie said.

"We're the only Australian team that's been there in the last three or four years, so we'd like to get there again.

"We've seen it, we've smelt it, we know what it looks like. But we've got to win this game to get there, so that's our challenge."

The Reds submitted 92-3 to the Bulls in the final round last season, allowing the South Africans to snatch a home semi-final.

But the Waratahs are not expecting their bitter rivals to fold in a similar fashion this time.

"I don't think the Reds laid down on purpose last year," McKenzie said.

"And I think they've got a bit more resolve in their performances this year, so I don't think they're going to do us any favours at all.

"So we'll have to go out there and earn it and we've done it before at Suncorp so we'll have to do it again."

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