NSW captain Dave Dennis admits the Waratahs face a balancing act between urgency and calm against the Blues on Sunday.
The repackaged Waratahs don’t want to start panicking about their position on the Super Rugby ladder, but the reality is they must win if they want to keep their Australian conference hopes bubbling.
It’s the difficult conundrum facing NSW under new coach Michael Cheika, who is trying to effect a mass culture change at the perennial under-achieving club.
For the Waratahs, long-term goals are more important than short-term targets.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not desperate to snap a two-match losing streak against the up-tempo Blues at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
“We’ve got a clear long-term goal which you’ll slowly see more and more as the season progresses,” Dennis told AAP.
“But we have to win games. We need that short-term result.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act.
“On Sunday there’s no science to it. The boys desperately want to win. But we are more focused on putting that performance together that is as close to perfect as possible, regardless of the result.”
It’s fair to say Cheika has had to settle the Waratahs down this week following their heavy loss to the Brumbies and disappointing stumble against the Cheetahs last week.
Dennis admits Waratahs players had a hope that their fortunes would immediately turn around in 2013 under Cheika.
However, the skipper is certain the coach was always a little more realistic.
“With the playing group there was probably a thinking it might just click straight away because we had such a good off-season and there’s been a lot of positivity around the club and a few changes,” Dennis said.
“But I’m pretty sure in the background and with the coaches, they’ve got a clear view of where we want to go as a club – and maybe they felt it was going to take a bit longer than what people think.
“Speaking to Cheik, he demonstrates that with the way he speaks to the players.”
Dennis said it’s been a positive week for the Waratahs, with veteran Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper and Sekope Kepu re-signing and Nick Phipps agreeing to terms for next season.
“I think we can see a clearer picture of the future,” he said.
Although 2012 was a season to forget for the Waratahs – arguably their two best performances – a win over the Sharks and narrow loss to the Crusaders – of the year came in day-time rugby.
A win over the Sharks and loss to the Crusaders they played, crisp, attacking rugby.
Dennis believes the injection of Rob Horne at No.12 will lift the team against a Sharks side (2-1) which are an attacking force under new coach Sir John Kirwan.
“Rob has always been a confrontational type of centre so I think 12 might even suit him a bit better (than outside centre),” Dennis said.
“He’ll get to that ad-line and give solidness in defence. And hopefully that will open up Adam (Ashley-Cooper) and our back three to a bit of space.”