Backrower Dave Dennis has called on HSBC Waratahs fans to turn out in their droves and create a formidable atmosphere for Saturday’s final round match at ANZ Stadium.
With Wycliff Palu ruled out with a broken scapula, Dennis moves into the No.8 jersey for the first time in his Super Rugby career and is excited by the prospect of a vocal crowd at Homebush.
“We had around 30,000 for the game against the Reds in round two at ANZ Stadium and we’d love to get even more out there this week,” said Dennis. “The bigger the crowd, the better the atmosphere and that can be a real boost for us on Saturday.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Win, and we’re in the finals – it’s as simple as that.
“We showed last week that we’re capable of playing an exciting brand of Rugby at the business end of the year and we want to bring the same mindset on Saturday night.
“There’s a few changes to the side but we’ve all got confidence in each other and the win over the Highlanders showed that we have the depth to perform well if we execute accurately.”
Dennis’s shift to the back of the scrum is one of a number of changes to this week’s team. Dean Mumm moves from the second row to flanker, while lock Pat O’Connor comes into the starting XV.
Berrick Barnes’ extended break from the game has allowed last week’s hat-trick scorer Tom Carter to move back to inside centre, while Ryan Cross returns from injury at outside centre.
After some strong performances off the bench in recent weeks, Atieli Pakalani will start on the wing with Sosene Anesi moving to the bench.
The other addition to the reserves list is Daniel Vickerman who returns to the HSBC Waratahs side for the first time since the 2008 Super 14 Final.
Head coach Chris Hickey is confident his charges are capable of claiming victory on Saturday night to take a place in the Super Rugby playoffs.
“One of the advantages of having a season disrupted by injury is that you get used to dealing with adversity and playing in various combinations,” said Hickey. “Taking players like Cliffy and Berrick out of the team isn’t ideal, however we’ve only had the luxury of fielding them together three times this year so the players in their place are more than ready to go.
“We’ve also been able to bring in 70 caps of Test experience with Ryan Cross and Dan Vickerman moving into the 22.
“We know the Brumbies are coming into the game with nothing to lose and some good momentum from the past two weeks.
“It’s a big plus to be playing this match at home and we’re hoping to have a big vocal crowd at ANZ Stadium to get behind the team.”
Saturday’s clash with the Brumbies is doubling as the 2011 Rugby Reunion, with fans encouraged to wear the Rugby colours of their school, club or favourite team to the game.
The game will be preceded by the annual junior march past, with thousands of young players from all over the state converging on ANZ Stadium.