Laying down the law ... Wallabies coach Robbie Deans puts students from Newcatle High School through their places yesterday. Deans has been in touch with the injured duo of Quade Cooper and James O'Connor. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
THE Waratahs will play a high-stakes game of truth or dare in Cape Town this weekend.
The dare will be to play the Stormers at their own game - defensive excellence and a strategic kicking game used to turn the screws on less composed opponents, who find themselves deep in their own halves and hopelessly alone.
The truth will be in the execution. They've had the practice against the Bulls and Crusaders in the past three weeks but came up short. Will it be third time lucky on what is likely to be a cold, wet night at Newlands?
"Bernard Foley's return at fullback is a boost for the Waratahs, who go into this game on a three-match losing streak". Photo: Getty Images
''It's been a bit of a common theme over the last couple of weeks,'' assistant coach Scott Bowen said. ''We've let teams off the hook and we can't do that again. These guys give you absolutely nothing so it's vitally important that whenever we get into field position we've got to come away with some sort of reward.''
He warned the Waratahs' backs had to be prepared to kick to get out of their own 22 on Saturday night. ''They're an extremely good defensive team, you've got to be able to kick well as well, there's no point playing a lot of football in your half because that's exactly what they're daring you to do,'' Bowen said.
''We've seen in the last couple of years the teams that have beaten them over here, Queensland kicked the cover off the ball and the Crusaders have done some pretty effective kicking as well, and they've been the only teams to beat them at home here.
"Will it be third time lucky on what is set to be a cold, wet night at Newlands?" Photo: Steve Christo
''It's a pretty big challenge, so for the backs to get things right we need to obviously defuse what they throw at us in terms of their kick-chase, but then, I guess, turn the tables back on them and look at pressuring them.''
Bernard Foley's return at fullback is a boost for the Waratahs, who go into this game on a three-match losing streak.
Bowen said he was confident the former sevens player could easily slot into the back three with wingers Tom Kingston and Atieli Pakalani, who performed well last week under pressure from Bulls' kicking supremo Morne Steyn.
''We've had that [kicking pressure] over the last three weeks, the Crusaders, only three weeks ago, and both the Crusaders and Stormers kick more than any other team in the competition, so it's been a challenge we've had to overcome there,'' he said.
''And whilst the personnel has slightly changed, I think we're pretty confident that those guys know what to expect and how to deal with it, and hopefully they're going to make the right decisions on the night.''
The Waratahs have enjoyed some invaluable bonding time in Cape Town since their arrival on Wednesday night. Bowen said the geography of Sydney meant players sometimes struggled to spend time together socially. The squad visited the site of the old apartheid-era prison at Robben Island and were enjoying getting to know each other off the field.
But come Saturday in Cape Town, with a potential 40,000-strong crowd staring down at them from the stands at Newlands Stadium, the Waratahs will be asked, again, to tap into a hidden vein of cold, hard ruthlessness.
Attacking opportunities will be hard enough to come by against the top-seeded wildcard team without the visitors' creeping habit of letting points go begging getting in the way.
''It's [about] understanding that, as a team, when we get into that field position we need to come away with points,'' Bowen said. ''Whether that's backs carrying the ball or passing the ball or forwards carrying and retaining. Everyone just needs to have that hard-nosed mindset.''