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Tahs focus on defence for Blues clash

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016 Adrian Warren
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper © Getty Images Waratahs captain Michael Hooper

NSW Waratahs will focus on defence first and insist they won't rush into chasing a bonus point as they attempt to break a three-year Australian drought in Friday's critical Super Rugby clash against the Blues in Auckland.

With only the Australian conference winner to make the playoffs, the Tahs go into the final round level on points with the Brumbies, who lead them on total wins and are expected to win comfortably against the Western Force at home on Saturday.

For all their inconsistencies in recent times, the Blues haven't lost at home to an Australian team since May, 2013.

They have also averaged over three tries a game at Eden Park this year.

So it's little wonder the Tahs leaders are focusing on winning by any margin and making defence a priority.

"The big thing we spoke about this week is it's alright to score tries, but you've got to stop the opposition from scoring tries if you want to win by three," Waratahs' coach Daryl Gibson said at Sydney Airport on Thursday.

"Our focus has largely been around defence and making sure that's strong, because if you've seen the Blues' attack they are very dangerous.

"They've got obvious threats across the park, so if you're not stopping them you've got no chance of a bonus or winning the game.

"To go there with a mindset that we're just going to play helter-skelter rugby would be foolish.

"Our first priority is to win the game and then search for that bonus point, but we certainly won't be playing sevens."

NSW have only ever won two games at Eden Park and just one out of nine Super Rugby fixtures there.

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper, who has never won at Eden Park at Super or Test level, said a victory by any margin on Friday would put pressure on the Brumbies.

"Our theme for the week is pressure, the things we can do and that in turn will pressure the Brumbies," Hooper said.

He made it clear he wouldn't necessarily opt to kick for touch and look for tries rather than kick for goal from penalties.

"I think penalty goals are going to play a big part in this game in the instance because we will be able to pressure the Blues," Hooper said.

He emphasised the Tahs would look to use the full width of the field more than did they did in last week's loss to the Hurricanes.

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