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It's all on the line: Waratahs captain

By Darren Walton 21/05/2010 10:23:36 PM Comments (0)

NSW captain Phil Waugh highlighted the significance of the Waratahs' Super 14 semi-final showdown with the Stormers in Cape Town in just six words.

"There's a lot on the line," Waugh said on Friday as the Waratahs prepared to end their 15-year Super rugby title drought with a history-making victory over the Stormers.

A veteran of 119 games for his state, this is 30-year-old Waugh's fourth finals series in the past six seasons.

But given the Tahs have lost both their championship deciders - in 2005 and 2008 to the Crusaders - and that no Australian side has ever won a Super playoff on foreign soil, this weekend's match looms as the biggest of Waugh's decade-long provincial career.

Up against a powerful Stormers outfit led by World Cup-winning Springboks Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie and Schalk Burger at one of rugby's great cauldrons, Waugh acknowledged the enormity of the challenge.

"You play rugby since you're a kid to be playing in events like this and in atmospheres like we'll get on Saturday in Cape Town at Newlands playing in front of 52-odd thousand people," the veteran flanker said.

"You embrace it."

The Stormers outclassed the Waratahs 27-6 in round two at Newlands and much has been made of the South Africans' miserly defence this campaign.

"Their record speaks for itself, especially their points differential and certainly the way they've gone in games defensively," Waugh said.

"But we've got some strategies and strikepower that will hopefully bend their line.

Indeed, if any team is capable of breaking down the Stormers it is the Waratahs, who themselves have racked up a franchise-best 385 points, including a record 45 tries.

The recruitment of Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell from the Western Force has been a major factor in NSW's star-studded backline finally clicking in 2010.

Mitchell has bagged a tournament-high nine tries and says the Waratahs must continue to attack in their quest for glory.

"We're playing with a bit of confidence at the moment. Our endeavour is to attack. That's what we like, it's what we enjoy doing, rather just giving the ball away," he said.

"If we give this team too much ball, obviously they just put teams away."

In addition to Australian sides' barren run in offshore finals, only eight visiting teams from 42 Super playoffs have ever won.

Of those, just four teams have won overseas playoffs - the Sharks over Queensland in 1996, the Crusaders over Queensland in 1999, the Highlanders over the Stormers in `99 and the Crusaders victorious against Brumbies in Canberra in 2000.

All business, the Waratahs were only due to fly to Cape Town, the party capital of South Africa, on match eve after basing themselves in Durban during the week.

"We've had some good history preparing in Durban so, rather than going straight down to Cape Town and getting caught up in the hype, we came here for a hit-and-run (mission) really," Waugh said.

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