The NSW Waratahs have their mojo back, but coach Daryl Gibson says next Saturday’s clash with the Stormers in Cape Town will be the ultimate test of his team’s form.
The Waratahs snapped their two-match losing streak and kept their slim finals hopes alive with a 49-13 demolition of the Western Force in Perth on Saturday night.
The six-tries-to-one rout gave NSW a vital bonus point, plus much-needed confidence heading into their toughest match of the year.
NSW will need to win at least six of their final eight matches if they are to secure a finals berth – leaving them little room for error.
And although they were able to pile on the tries against the Force, Gibson knows a true measure of their form will come against the title-contending Stormers.
“It’s huge. To go to Cape Town – there’s no better place to go to see where you’re at in terms of your form.
“It’s a great challenge for us, and one the guys are in a good head space for.
“We’ll relish that opportunity to test ourselves.”
Flanker Jack Dempsey is in doubt for the Stormers clash after coming off in the 55th minute against the Force with a shoulder injury.
Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper entered Saturday’s match under intense pressure to perform after being labelled “dreadful” and a “non-event” by former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer.
Hooper put in a solid display to help his team secure victory, but he denied Dwyer’s comments had been playing on his mind.
“It’s not hanging over my head,” Hooper said.
“My biggest concern is trying to lead this team to the best of my ability. I’m happy with the way I’m doing my role, and so are the people who matter to me.”
Israel Folau’s try in the 57th minute broke the spirits of the Force, who had closed to within seven points before conceding the final four tries of the match.
It also took Folau’s try tally for the Waratahs to 30 – eclipsing the previous NSW record of 29 set by Lote Tuqiri.
“It’s a real credit for him,” Gibson said.
“He’s been outstanding for the Waratahs since he started for us 51 games ago. It’s no surprise he’s the leading try scorer now.”