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Waratahs eyeing semi-final against Reds

By Darren Walton 19/06/2011 06:08:52 PM Comments (0)

The NSW Waratahs are vowing to create Super Rugby history and set up a potential sudden-death semi-final with the all-conquering Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

The fifth-placed Waratahs will travel to their Eden Park bogey ground in Auckland to meet the fourth-placed Blues on Friday night striving to become the first Australian side ever to win finals match offshore.

Australian teams' record in Super Rugby playoffs is a sorry seven defeats from seven matches, with NSW losing finals to the Crusaders in 2005 and 2008 and semi-finals to the Hurricanes in 2006 and Stormers last year.

The Waratahs, who clinched their finals spot with a record 41-7 triumph over the Brumbies in Sydney on Saturday night, also lost all four of their overseas games this season - to the Crusaders, Blues, Bulls and Sharks.

"We must be due for a win," NSW coach Chris Hickey told AAP on Sunday.

"To be honest, you don't look at those things too hard. You just look at the game that's in front of you and the challenge it presents and come up with some strategies and prepare as well as you can.

"When you run on, it's nil-all and the ground is the same size that we play on here in Sydney and it's all grass and teams are used to travelling a lot now.

"So I think that home and away advantage has probably diminished a fair bit."

The Waratahs have a particularly galling record at Eden Park, where they lost 31-17 in mid-April and have won just once - in 2009 - in more than 80 years.

"We're 50 per cent over the past two years, so that's the stat that we'll look at," Hickey said.

"It's a tough game no matter where you go in the finals series. We're probably fortunate that in week one we've avoided that longer trip across to South Africa, so that's a positive.

"We know the Blues had a strong result against us when we played them over there earlier in the year but, as coaches, you learn a lot from those losses."

NSW's reward for a hoodoo-busting victory in Auckland would likely be a dream interstate showdown with arch-rivals Queensland on July 2 - just four days before rugby league's State of Origin decider at the same venue.

The sixth-placed Sharks would have to travel from Durban and upset the third-placed Crusaders in the second semi-final on Saturday to ruin hopes of a NSW-Queensland clash.

"If that game was to come to fruition, it would be a great game for Australian rugby," Hickey said.

"If two Australian teams competed in the semi-final of a Super Rugby competition, I think it would generate a lot of interest around Australia and it would be a good indicator, wouldn't it, before the World Cup.

"It would be a great game. It's something that we'd certainly look forward to."

And so to the Reds, who capped their Cinderella rise with a 19-11 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday to seal their first minor premiership since 1999.

"There's a reasonable prospect of that (playing NSW)," Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said.

"The Waratahs played well and the Blues have lost four and then won one (in their past five games), so you would have to say the Waratahs have better form at the moment."

No-one, though, was more impressive across the 18 rounds than the Reds, who will enter the playoffs having conquered all five fellow finalists this season.

The Stormers finished second after securing South African conference honours with a 44-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

The Crusaders won the New Zealand conference with a 16-9 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington, the Sharks eliminated the defending champion Bulls 26-23 in Pretoria to make the finals, while the Blues warmed up for the playoffs with a 33-16 victory over the Highlanders in Auckland.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

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