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Brumbies and Tahs up for high-stakes derby

By Darren Walton 25/03/2011 06:05:29 PM Comments (0)

Losing doesn't bear thinking about for the Brumbies and NSW Waratahs as they enter Saturday night's Super Rugby grudge match under extreme pressure to deliver.

Disgruntled fans booed the Waratahs off the park after last week's diabolical 23-3 home loss to the Cheetahs, while the Brumbies are a club in turmoil after their worst-ever start to a Super campaign.

The two-times champions - and Australia's only ever winners of world rugby's most competitive provincial competition - are on the hunt for a new coach after sacking Andy Friend amid an alarming three-game losing streak.

"It's a big game tomorrow. A lot at stake," Brumbies captain Matt Giteau said on Friday.

"It's going to have a lot of feeling. That's the way we're going to be treating it and I expect the Tahs will be the same."

Indeed they are.

"It's a game of desperation really," NSW captain Phil Waugh said.

"They are desperate, we are desperate given our last two results as well.

"So there will be plenty of feeling in the game."

With the in-form Queensland Reds expected to take care of the Cheetahs on Saturday night, the losers of the high-stakes encounter in Canberra will be in grave danger of losing touch with the Australian conference leaders a third-way through the competition.

"The circumstances that both teams are in really make it a must-win game for both sides," NSW coach Chris Hickey said on Friday.

Waugh, returning from a bicep injury that sidelined him last Saturday, was backing his embattled side to rise to the occasion.

"You drop a few games and all of a sudden your back is against the wall and you've got to have a good winning streak to get back up in the mix," he said.

"We're obviously coming off the back of two losses and dropping another game now could put our backs right up against the wall and it wouldn't be ideal.

"It wouldn't be fatal but, at the same time, this competition will get away from you very quickly if you lose games."

After starting the season on fire, the Waratahs came unstuck 33-18 against the Crusaders in Nelson before suffering their worst-ever home defeat against the Cheetahs coming off a bye.

The Brumbies, having succumbed 52-10 to the Crusaders themselves and then having a bye weekend to stew over that crushing loss, now find themselves in a similar situation to that which the Tahs faced last week as they eye atonement in front of their home fans.

"They gain a lot of confidence out of playing in Canberra," Waugh said.

"Certainly their football in Canberra is far more consistent than it is away from home."

Giteau remains at five-eighth in a new-look Brumbies backline featuring Andrew Smith and Christian Lealiifano in the centres and Adam Ashley-Cooper at fullback.

But the skipper is more concerned about his team's ability to keep cool after the Brumbies self-destructed in their last home derby against Queensland in round three.

"(The new players are) going to bring that enthusiasm, eagerness," Giteau said.

"I think what hurt us against the Reds was probably (a lack of) discipline.

"You've just got to be able to contain that emotion, have the right level of arousal.

"You've got to be up for the game, but not giving away silly penalties for being too edgy."

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