Waratahs eye big Super 14 finish - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Waratahs eye big Super 14 finish

By Adrian Warren 29/04/2010 05:26:46 PM Comments (0)

NSW Waratahs are determined to seize control of their Super 14 finals destiny by beating the Highlanders in Invercargill on Friday.

NSW start the round in fifth place, but a win will catapult them into the top four.

And, with the Stormers and Crusaders - both just one point above them - meeting in Cape Town, the Waratahs know they will finish the round in the top four provided they win.

NSW just missed out on the top four last year despite finishing with three straight wins but veteran prop Al Baxter acknowledged a similar finish this time - with wins over the Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes - would put NSW in the semi-finals.

"I think what we are most happy about is that if we get three wins, our destiny is in our own hands," Baxter said.

Although a lowly 12th, the Highlanders have the chance to make or break the finals fortunes of three Australian teams in the closing rounds of the tournament.

Following Friday's fixture, they play Australia's other finals aspirants, the Brumbies in Canberra and the Reds in Brisbane.

The Waratahs are preparing to face an early forwards onslaught on their first trip to Invercargill.

Despite their lowly ladder position, the Highlanders boast a challenging pack.

"They are a big pack and with a bit of momentum they are very hard to stop and you've got to meet that head-on early otherwise you will chase your tails a bit," Baxter said.

"They get a lot of their confidence and play their best rugby when their forwards are going forward."

Baxter will have two new buddies in the front row this week, with first choice hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau back from injury and Dan Palmer replacing injured prop Sekope Kepu.

Palmer will get a rare Super start, but Baxter had every confidence in the youngster's ability to handle the job.

"He (Palmer) is an old head on young shoulders, so he will be absolutely fine as he showed last week when he got thrown into it with about 25 minutes to go in a local derby clash which is about as intense as you get," Baxter said.

NSW coach Chris Hickey welcomed back Polota-Nau, who he rated the form hooker of the Super tournament.

"To get him back is a big thing for us, not only in terms of his play in the front row, but also his ball carrying ability around the park," Hickey said.

"With Wycliff Palu out, we need Taf to fill that role."

The Highlanders pack apart, the Waratahs are also wary of their strike power out wide through fullback Israel Dagg and winger Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Only a couple of former Queenslanders in the NSW side have played in Invercargill before, as the Waratahs last match in that region was in the pre-Super days, back in 1994.

Hickey has signalled an intention to play an up tempo game against the Highlanders, but forecasts of showers could force the visitors into a more conservative mindset.

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