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Waratahs will take attacking style to New Zealand for Chiefs showdown

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 24/05/2014 Georgina Robinson
Have attack, will travel: The Waratahs will take their free-flowing style of play to Waikato. © Getty Images Have attack, will travel: The Waratahs will take their free-flowing style of play to Waikato.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says the new Australian conference leaders have no choice but to take their risk-laden attacking style to New Zealand to face the Chiefs next week.

As the Waratahs head into their final clash before the June Test window and edge closer to a top-two finish, Rebels coach Tony McGahan warned the test of the side's title hopes would be how their game functioned under pressure.

McGahan was full of compliments after his side's 41-19 loss to a determined and polished NSW on Friday night but warned there would times in the weeks ahead where the Waratahs' resilience would be tested.

"I think they have to play to their strengths and what they've been playing all year, you certainly don't want to change once you get in the finals," he said.

"The Brumbies and Sharks have their blueprint, the Chiefs have theirs, but I think what the [Waratahs] have is a good balance. There were good defensive plays there, Foley controls things well, Kurtley [Beale] is controlling things well and getting them out of trouble.

"But that will be the key for them, when things aren't going well, how can they get themselves out, because certainly when they're on the front foot, they're very, very hard to stop."

The Waratahs fly to New Plymouth via Auckland on Thursday before their clash with the two-time Super Rugby title-winning Chiefs.

As impressive as the side's six-try demolition of the 11th-placed Rebels was, the team know they face another challenge altogether in New Zealand.

For all the polish and attitude in their recent performances, memories linger from their last trip across the Tasman, when shambolic handling gave the Blues all the opportunity they needed to notch a 21-13 victory.

And while six four-try bonus points (plus one losing bonus point) have put their attacking credentials beyond doubt, losses to the Brumbies, Force and Sharks are reminders of their vulnerabilities against a tighter, defence-based and territorial game plan. 

Cheika said the style dilemma went to the core of the team's identity, but maintained the Waratahs had no choice but to stick to their guns at this point in their evolution.

"I think we are still at the stage where we have to play how we play and if we're good enough, we're good enough," he said.

"Then maybe when we get really good at it, we can maybe start to chop and change a little bit, but I don't think we're there yet. I think we have to keep playing our way and hopefully we can better than the opposition on that day playing our style.

"If the team shuts us down, maybe we have to think on our feet but the first objective is to not be shut down."

The Rebels gave them a good run for their money for 50 minutes on Friday, and the Waratahs showed patience and faith to keep coming. It was a group-wide confidence they lacked last season. 

"In the first game the same thing happened, they were all over us at the start, but we just have to keep sticking at the ball carrier working hard to stay away from those guys and a good clean-out and not committing too many guys," Cheika said. 

"That's just the battle of styles of game and I like that, pitting one style against another and seeing how it comes out."

The Waratahs now lead the competition for tries scored but the Chiefs were not far behind, in third spot before their round 15 clash with the Hurricanes. 

They will also make NSW work for their opportunities, with an 88 per cent tackling success rate across the season and self belief born of their two championship titles. 

Cheika said the Waratahs knew what they would be walking into on Saturday. 

"They are the champions from the last two years and they're a team we admire," he said. 

"They play the game in the right spirit, they're trying to keep the ball alive, they've got excellent players who keep the game moving and make it exciting and we're going to enjoy pitting ourselves against the way they play.

"They're a different type of team to us but it should be a really good physical battle because they like the physical contest as well."

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