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The Waratahs celebrate their 33-32 win over the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last year. Photo: AP

‘It’s going to be a war zone’: Waratahs ready to do battle with Crusaders

Teams meet in re-match of last year’s final, which the Aussie outfit won courtesy of Bernard Foley’s late penalty

New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is preparing his players for nothing short of a battle when they meet the Canterbury Crusaders in a crunch Super Rugby clash at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

A re-match of last year’s Super Rugby final at the same venue, which the Waratahs clinched courtesy of Bernard Foley’s late penalty, the match has major repercussions for the play-off hopes of both teams.

The Waratahs are in the sixth and final play-off spot with four rounds of the regular season remaining, while the seven-times champions are ninth and facing the prospect of missing out on post-season play for the first time since 2001.

It’s going to be a real battlefield. I really think they are a fine team and they will be coming off a bye, fresh
Michael Cheika, Waratahs coach

A bonus point win for Todd Blackadder’s All Black-studded side, though, could bring them level with the reigning champions on 36 points.

“It’s going to be a war zone this weekend, that’s for sure,” Cheika said.

“It’s going to be a real battlefield. I really think they are a fine team and they will be coming off a bye, fresh.”

The Waratahs rebounded from an upset at the hands of the Western Force to beat the Sharks on home soil last Saturday, but the 33-18 scoreline disguised a scrappy win by a side that has not hit the heights they achieved last year.

A major factor in their 2014 success was physicality at the breakdown and, despite being without hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and possibly the hulking Jacques Potgieter, Cheika knows his pack will have to match fire with fire up front.

The Crusaders have a built a reputation over the years for hitting their straps at the business end of the season and doled out an eight try, 58-17 humbling of the Queensland Reds two weeks ago.

With no room for a slip-up in their final four matches, however, the Crusaders will have to build the same sort of defiant spirit that got them to the 2011 final, despite the Christchurch earthquake destroying their home ground.

“With the quality and calibre of the guys we’ve got, we have got some big game players there, so it’s about time everyone stood up and we’re going to have to, collectively,” Blackadder told the New Zealand Herald.