NSW Waratahs are planning on turning up the heat against the Highlanders on Sunday, with Super Rugby finals looming.
The NSW Waratahs say the worst thing they can do with two weeks left in the Super Rugby season is to play not to lose.
The equation is simple for Michael Cheika’s men – wins over the Highlanders on Sunday at Allianz Stadium and the Queensland Reds next weekend and first place and a potential home final is theirs.
But rather than lock up, if anything, the coach has implored his troops to take their attacking mindset to a new level.
“He wants us to take more risks,” said Stephen Hoiles.
“Cheik doesn’t want us to worry about the consequences or ramifications of anything we try because if it’s in your skill set and it’s part of what we’ve spoken about then go out and give it every shot.
“At the end of the day you’ll only live with regret if you go out there and do it in a way you didn’t plan or if you hold back. You’ll be full of regrets. And the coach is really big on us not being that side.”
The Waratahs don’t need any extra motivation to end nearly two decades of Super Rugby disappointment, but the season-ending injury to captain Dave Dennis has only brought the team closer together.
After a couple of sombre days contemplating life without their skipper, the Waratahs are now determined on making their season about `doing it for Dennis.’
“There’s a lot of added motivation this weekend,” said halfback Nick Phipps.
“A lot more people are picking up the leadership responsibility. A lot of people are stepping up.”
A key figure in delivering on the Waratahs’ ultimatum of no regrets is Dennis’ replacement at blindside flanker – Hoiles.
The 32-year-old journeyman was only a pup when he was part of the Waratahs’ side blown off the park by the Crusaders in the 2005 final.
At that point he thought finals football would be a yearly occurrence – but never again has he been there before.
To merely be back on the park is an achievement for Hoiles given the devastating nature of his achilles tendon injury which threatened his career.
But he didn’t come back for the sake of it – Hoiles wants a premiership.
“I would never have come back if I didn’t think I could come back to the highest level,” said Hoiles, who will start just his second game of the season against the Highlanders.
“Every time I was injured I was always really confident I could come back and compete in this competition.”
On Sunday the Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby team, will make history when they take on Macquarie University in the curtain raiser.
The match is part of wider efforts to tackle homophobia in Australian sport.