The NSW Waratahs are adamant they haven’t achieved anything yet as they set their sights on knocking over the Brumbies in Canberra.
NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says his side haven’t proven anything until they stand up to last year’s Super Rugby grand finalists the Brumbies.
Despite surging to the top of the ladder with back-to-back bonus point wins to start the season, Cheika is adamant his side are still “at the bottom of the mountain”.
The Waratahs have raised hopes and fallen short on a repeated basis over the years, but there’s a genuine reason to believe things can be different in 2014 with Israel Folau in unstoppable form.
NSW’s stocks rose dramatically with a 32-5 thumping of Queensland on Saturday night, the Waratahs’ biggest ever win over the Reds in Super Rugby.
Another small crowd might have greeted the Waratahs onto ANZ Stadium, but Cheika knows excitement and expectation will start to build around his team after they broke a five-match hoodoo against Australian conference heavyweights Queensland.
The Waratahs can enjoy the bye before travelling to Canberra the following week for another critical clash against the Brumbies, who bounced back from a first-up loss to score a 27-14 win over the Western Force on Saturday night.
In the corresponding match last season, the Waratahs were given a hiding in the ACT, and Cheika is confident his troops won’t get ahead of themselves.
“I don’t know if we’re frontrunners. We only just jumped out of the barriers,” said Cheika.
“What’s going to happen now is obviously there’s going to be a lot of talk about the win and everything like that. We just need to stay level and understand that we’re at the bottom of the mountain.
“We don’t need anything else to sharpen our focus than think back to last year when we got tonked by the Brumbies.”
NSW aren’t the only Australian franchise to make an eye-catching start, with the Melbourne Rebels blowing away the Cheetahs 35-14 on Friday night at AAMI Park.
If the Rebels under new coach Tony McGahan can hand the Force a third straight defeat in Perth next week and score four tries in doing so, they will join the Waratahs at the top of the Australian conference.
Halfback Luke Burgess put his hand up for a Wallabies return with a sterling performance for the Rebels, but McGahan said his side’s biggest test is to come.
“We need to get some consistency and string together back-to-back results like the other sides are,” McGahan said.
“We’ve got to continue the hard work; we’ve dipped our toe in the water but we’re going to face different strengths every week and we’re going to have to be able to adapt.”
Queensland will look to pick up the pieces against the battling Cheetahs in Brisbane on Friday night, while the Brumbies face a tough road trip to Wellington to face the Hurricanes.
However, in good news for Stephen Larkham’s ACT side, it appears star centre Pat McCabe could be on deck after he was cleared of a potentially serious neck injury suffered in Saturday’s win.
Wallabies star David Pocock is also a chance to play after early medical checks indicated he doesn’t have a serious knee problem.
In an injury-marred match, the Force were also given a dose of good news when Hugh McMeniman was cleared of any serious neck issues.
Defending premiers the Chiefs are on top of the New Zealand conference after overcoming the Highlanders, while the South African conference led by the Sharks evened out with victory to the Stormers over the Hurricanes and the Bulls over the Lions.