Waratahs coach Darren Coleman has been picking the brain of Wallabies boss Dave Rennie as he prepares for his first Kiwi Super Rugby opponent in the Chiefs on Friday.
A resurgent NSW – with Coleman in his first year at the helm – outclassed the Force 41-24 in Perth on Saturday to jump to fifth on the ladder with a 5-3 record.
That’s five more wins than the Waratahs had last year but Coleman knows the rubber hits the road in the crossover ‘Super Round’ at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
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New Zealander Rennie, of course, made his coaching name by guiding the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.
“I had a really cool conversation this morning with Dave Rennie,” a typically relaxed Coleman told Stan Sport after a comfortable six tries to four win in Western Australia.
“Obviously I thought if anyone’s going to know the Kiwi psyche and how to pull them apart it’d be him.
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“I dunno, when he said ‘us and them’ I didn’t know which one he was talking about but it was good,” Coleman quipped.
“I’m starting to get my head around it and we’ll review this in a normal way like we do and then Monday arvo we’ll turn our attention to the Kiwis.
“If we kick as inaccurately in general play as we did today we’ll be having a rough time.”
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Indeed Australian teams have had a wretched recent time of it against their Kiwi rivals.
The Waratahs are the last Aussie club to lift a combined trophy in 2014 and the bookmakers are expecting the heavyweight Blues and Crusaders to duke it out again in the final this year.
The first eight rounds of the season have been domestic affairs due to COVID-19 but that all changes in Melbourne this weekend.
Stan Sport’s Nick McArdle pressed the likeable Coleman for more details of his chinwag with Rennie.
“I said I’m coming for your job mate!” Coleman joked.
“No, he’s a good man, he’s a ripper of a bloke.
“He’s been a good little sounding board for me, as have all the Wallabies staff, Wisey (Scott Wisemantel) and Matty Taylor, they’re awesome blokes.
“Obviously I’m in my first year having a crack at this and going into my first shot at the Kiwis so I wanted to bounce some ideas off him and try and figure out how we’re going to attack these fellas.
“He was a good sounding board, had his own ideas and a bit more around the psyche and it was really helpful.”
The Waratahs-Chiefs clash is the first of a six game men’s Super Round, giving Coleman’s crew a huge opportunity to set the tone for Australia and prove they’ll be no pushovers in 2022.
While acknowledging they would start underdogs, Wallabies legend Tim Horan said NSW had a genuine shot at beating the Chiefs, a notion that couldn’t be genuinely spruiked last season.
“When he (Coleman) says the psyche, it’s just about their thinking and how they actually approach the game, the Kiwis and how quick they are with their skill-sets and how they attack – they want to play an up-tempo game,” Horan said on Stan Sport.
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“All the Australian teams are going to have to play another two or three notches above to match these Kiwi teams next weekend…
“You’ve got four Australian teams in the top eight.
“I wonder how many are going to be in the top eight in the next 3-5 weeks?”
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The Waratahs were ruing a missed bonus point against the Force after leading the hosts 22-0 after just 14 minutes.
The Force teamsheet had been thrown into disarray before kickoff with captain Feleti Kaitu’u (calf), Jeremy Thrush (soreness), Bayley Kuenzle (gastro), and Toni Pulu (concussion) late scratchings along with COVID-19 casualties Izack Rodda, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa and coach Tim Sampson.
“It seems to be the same story for us unfortunately,” Force skipper Kyle Godwin said of his side’s sluggish starts.
Meanwhile, Coleman’s decision to play dual openside flankers Michael Hooper and Charlie Gamble paid off handsomely with both men impressing in the big win.
But Gamble, playing in the No.6 jersey, was cranky at missing out on that bonus point after Mark Nawaqanitawase’s late try was scrubbed out for a knock on.
“That’s tough for us, we thought it came off the foot,” Gamble said.
“We lost that crucial bonus point. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite us in the end.”
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