Rocky Elsom says NSW must be desperate against the Brumbies on Saturday night, not only to keep their Super Rugby hopes alive but because he appreciates better than anyone how far his former side have come.
Elsom only played one match for the Brumbies last year, but he was a first-hand witness to the tumultuous circumstances which led to the sacking of coach Andy Friend and ultimately his replacement Tony Rae, and their third-last finish on the competition table.
However, under new coach Jake White, the Brumbies have turned things around and are leading the Australian conference, five points clear of the Waratahs.
With a tough South African tour on the horizon for NSW, the Waratahs’ season is hanging in the balance.
Former Wallabies skipper Elsom says the Brumbies have cleaned up their act on and off the field and if the Waratahs don’t respect them in Canberra on Saturday, it could spell the end of their finals hopes.
“I’ve said this in the past – our rugby program wasn’t what it should have been the last couple of years down at the Brumbies and they seem to have corrected that,” said Elsom.
“They’re obviously not (the same outfit they were last year).
“We don’t need any more motivation than just the four points, we need a win at this time of the year and they probably do too.
“They’re a side we’ve got to treat with a fair bit of respect.
“They play to their strengths and I think you’ve always got to be cautious of a team that is … all on exactly the same page.
“Both teams need the win – there’s no doubt about that.”
NSW coach Michael Foley is expected to name his side on Thursday, with monster lock Sitaleki Timani tipped to start.
However, it doesn’t appear Elsom will be rushed back to run out and captain NSW against his former teammates, after he returned from injury two weeks ago against Melbourne.
Given his extensive battles with hamstring injuries, Elsom said every precaution was being taken to ensure he doesn’t sustain further damage, and it seems he’ll once again be blooded off the bench.
“I don’t pick the team for starters but the mix, with the way it’s at the moment, I think it’s fine the way we’re going,” he said.
“It’s not so much match fitness (as the problem) … it’s more about getting the work done on the hamstring so I can play longer and not regress at any stage. So far, so good.”
Elsom refused to discuss his playing future beyond this season when asked about a potential move overseas.