NSW Waratahs opt against resting players for Crusaders clash as ghosts of 96-19 defeat linger


Waratahs assistant coach Chris Whitaker, who was the team’s halfback that night, said the defeat had been brought up in recent days.

“We had Burkey [former Waratahs skipper Matt Burke] in here last week helping out with some kicking. He reminded everyone of that story. I was strongly against it [resting players this week] … because of that,” Whitaker said with a laugh.

Super days: Chris Whitaker clears the ball from a Waratahs scrum against the Crusaders.

Super days: Chris Whitaker clears the ball from a Waratahs scrum against the Crusaders.Credit: The Press

“That’s what can happen. A team like the Crusaders, [give them] any type of opportunity and they can pounce on it. We’re confident that wouldn’t happen again if we did rest some guys. I thought it would be a shame if we wanted to rest any guys to try and break that momentum.”

Burke confirmed to this masthead that old wounds of 2002 had been revisited and was pleased to see NSW name a strong team this weekend.

“We were laughing about it,” Burke said. “There are times to rest and there are not times to rest. Sometimes you need to go in there and have a dig.

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“We nearly got a [losing] bonus point even though we lost by 77 points. “I was on the plane home thinking, ‘How do we get into a mindset ahead of a semi-final next week?’ I thought we should all walk out together at the airport with a unified look. I was telling our media manager about it … he said, ‘Mate, good idea, but I’ve already sent Bob out the other airport exit’.

“We went out [to face the media] as a dishevelled bunch. Mat Rogers was being interviewed and then when I came out, they all just ran to me and stuck the microphone in my face. All the best laid plans went away. The next week we got beaten 51-10 by the Brumbies.”

The Waratahs have a new centre pairing in Mosese Tuipulotu and Joey Walton but have kept their back three of Jorgensen, Dylan Pietsch and Mark Nawaqanitawase unchanged. NSW haven’t won in Christchurch since 2004.

“We just thought it’d be a shame to change the team again,” Whitaker said. “I thought the guys played some really good footy last week. Some combinations came together and we’re starting to hit our groove.

“It’s a massive task for us to go to Christchurch. We just want to test ourselves against probably the pinnacle of the competition the last few years.

“We always back ourselves against the Crusaders. I think we play similar styles of footy. I think we’re quite comfortable playing against them.

“There’s probably every chance we go back to New Zealand and play [a quarter-final] in a few weeks’ time. It’s a good test for us.”

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