Leaving nothing to chance in their quest to secure a Super 14 home semi-final, the NSW Waratahs will be operating on South African time even before they set off on their make-or-break tour of the Republic this week.
Foxsports reports that after surging into second place on the table with an impressive 25-10 bonus-point win over the Sharks at the SFS, the Waratahs now hit the airways for vital away games against the Bulls in Pretoria, the Stormers in Cape Town and Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
With a mere five competition points separating the five teams chasing runaway leaders the Crusaders, NSW coach Ewen McKenzie admitted the rugged three-game block loomed as season-defining for his team.
The meticulous McKenzie suspected this might be the case some six months ago when he started planning for the treacherous end-of-season draw and decided to follow a tried-and-tested but nevertheless “radical” routine.
It all revolves around the Waratahs acclimatising for South Africa before they even arrive for a daring hit-and-run attempt on the defending champion Bulls.
Unlike most teams who jet off for the demanding trip to Africa the day after a game to give themselves ample time to adjust to the local conditions, the Waratahs will not leave until two days before the match.
They will have a light Captain’s Run on Friday then play Saturday at altitude.
McKenzie hopes the necessary preparation will be done well before all that.
When the Waratahs leave on Thursday morning, it will be 2am in South Africa, so McKenzie has requested airline staff delay meal times for his charges so they can sleep as soon as they board.
“Then they can have breakfast when they wake up,” he said.
“The trick is to resist the temptation to watch the movie you’ve been wanting to see and go straight to sleep.
“We went late last year and we found it worked really well for us.
“Only two teams won their first game in South Africa last year. We were one of them and this year there’s been, I think, three teams that have won their first game. There’s a bunch of teams that haven’t.
“We’ve got our own thoughts about what the best preparation is and we believe that recovering from the game (before) adds to the importance.
“So not getting on the aeroplane today is a plus for us in terms of (recovering) and also getting through our routine preparation for the match.
“We’ll do all our preparation for the Bulls and then literally just fly over there and play the game. We’re comfortable with that.”
McKenzie adopted the idea from the Socceroos.
“It’s radical, I guess, in terms of rugby,” he admitted.
“But in soccer, for instance, when the Australian soccer team plays here, they fly in the guys from Europe the day before.
“The Kewells and these guys, they come here for literally two nights. They play and they fly them out again.”
It’s hard to argue with McKenzie’s strategies – the Waratahs have used his specific blueprints to rack up a record-equalling five straight wins, with the four-try romp over the Sharks undoubtedly their most polished effort yet this season.
A lone Lote Tuqiri penalty goal separated the two teams at halftime.
But a second-half tryscoring double to rampant No.8 Wycliff Palu, a unanimous man of the match, and five-pointers also to fullback Sam Norton-Knight and centre Tom Carter provided the perfect ending to a perfect home campaign for the Waratahs in 2008.
How the Waratahs fare on the road over the next three weeks will determine whether or not an encore is on agenda.Tweet