Kurtley Beale celebrates with teammates after the Waratahs’ great escape against the Rebels. Picture: AAP
Kurtley Beale celebrates with teammates after the Waratahs’ great escape against the Rebels. Picture: AAP

Why Waratahs are on clear path to Super final

PERHAPS the rugby gods are on the Waratahs' side after all. After a season in which nothing really went to plan, NSW are suddenly eyeing the unexpected possibility of getting to the Super Rugby final without having to leave town again or play any of their bogey New Zealand rivals.

It was an unthinkable scenario just a few months ago when they were languishing back in ninth place and being branded as chokers after blowing a 29-point lead against the Crusaders, but everything has suddenly fallen into place and handed the Waratahs control of their own destiny.

Thanks to their gutsy comeback win over the Rebels last weekend and the Lions' mauling by the Sharks, the Waratahs will finish the regular season in second place if they win their last two matches - both at Allianz Stadium - against the cellar-dweller Sunwolves this Saturday then the Brumbies.

The vagaries of Super Rugby's baffling conference system ensures nothing can ever be taken for granted but there is no argument their path to the final will be far less treacherous if they finish second instead of third.

Not only would they secure home ground advantage for the first week of the playoffs but they will also be guaranteed a home semi-final if they win and get the added bonus of possibly avoiding any Kiwi teams until the final.

It's shaping up as a rare golden opportunity but one still fraught with danger because if they slip-up in their last two games, they could tumble back as far as seventh or even eighth, so the stakes could not be higher.

"We've got to win anyway," said flanker Will Miller. "We're competing against everyone in the Super Rugby comp so we've just got to keep winning and get as good a position as possible.

"If we can't win our last two games then we probably don't deserve to be there so we may as well try and win those and see where we finish up and keep going with the semis."

Unfazed by trying the fill the boots of injured skipper Michael Hooper, Miller played a key role in the heart-stopping win over the Rebels, scoring a try and winning a vital turnover in the last minute to leave the Waratahs on the verge of clinching a top position.

"He's an outstanding loose forward and with Michael Hooper down, there's nobody in the world that you'd want to go out there than Will Miller," said assistant coach Simon Cron.

"He's one of the toughest players I've seen in the last four or five years, he's uncompromising, has a huge work rate and takes a second to no-one attitude.

"Success breeds success and if you're going to make the finals you want to go in there winning."

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