The NSW Waratahs are intent on not allowing Queensland to distract them from the challenge of winning their first Super Rugby title.
The Waratahs are determined not to allow old rivals Queensland to verbally or physically blow them off course with a maiden Super Rugby title tantalisingly within reach.
Sunday’s bonus point win over the Highlanders guaranteed NSW top spot, a home semi-final and potential final.
The Waratahs allowed themselves just the briefest of celebrations before turning their minds to their final-round fixture against traditional adversaries Queensland in Brisbane on Saturday.
“There was a little bit of celebrating, but it quickly turned into focusing and getting our bodies right,” Waratahs five-eighth Kurtley Beale said on Monday.
“The Queensland Reds are obviously a very tough team up there at Suncorp, there’s obviously that mate versus mate mentality out here, it’s always going to be on when there’s a NSW-Queensland match.”
While Beale said not many of the Reds were sledgers, he expected there to be some verbal fireworks out on the field.
“When you’re out there in the heat of battle, things happen, that’s the nature of rugby,” Beale said.
“Things are going to get heated, so obviously we don’t want to be competing and dishing out that type of stuff.”
Prop Sekope Kepu warned that winning the minor premiership would count for absolutely nothing if the Waratahs slipped up in the finals.
“We’ve achieved one of our goals and it was to finish in the top two, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go on and win the competition,” Kepu said.
South African forward Jacques Potgieter revealed he never had any doubts NSW would make the finals this season.
“I knew we were going to be in the play-offs, I wouldn’t have signed if I didn’t think the Waratahs wouldn’t have been good,” Potgieter said.
“We’ve worked hard during the year to achieve top spot.
“All the blood and sweat we’ve put in, it’s a good feeling but we know the job is not done yet and we’ve got to finish it.”
Potgieter, who is signed to NSW for the next two seasons and would love the opportunity to play against some of his Waratahs teammates at the international level, said he hadn’t heard anything from the Springboks management regarding his prospects of Test selection.
“It would be good playing against the (NSW) boys,” Potgieter said.
“Everyone dreams to play for their country, if you don’t dream of playing for your country there’s no need for you to play.”
Tahs forward Mitchell Chapman, who has only just returned to the team following a lengthy injury lay-off, felt the final round with the Reds would be a good barometer for NSW heading into the finals.
“They are not sitting at the top of the ladder, but Queensland-NSW games are always really physical,” Chapman said.
“I think that could be a good test for us going into the finals.”