Gibson says Highlanders face Waratahs fortress
Ask Waratahs attack coach Daryl Gibson about home ground advantage.
The former All Black and Crusader wrote his Masters thesis on the phenomenon and needs no convincing that the Waratahs' plum position two games out from the Super Rugby finals series has been reached on the back of a 100 per cent winning record at home.
"Players feel less anxiety and greater accountability to their home crowd," Gibson said.
"Usually we're very comfortable in our home environment. We sleep in our own bed, we do the things we're used to and that aren't unfamiliar."
If the Waratahs beat the Highlanders today they will lock in a position in the competition top two and a home semifinal. It will also be the first time since 2010 they have not dropped a home game all season and the second time since their appearance in the 2008 Super 14 final.
It has all gone according to plan so far, with victories away against the Stormers, Chiefs and Rebels, plus eight bonus points, catapulting them into the rarefied air of the Super Rugby top two.
"While we've tried to make our home ground a difficult place to win at, we've really focused on trying to win away," Gibson said.
"That's certainly something we've talked about and [why winning in] New Plymouth was very significant.
"Taking the step to being able to win away is an important step for the team to make and start to believe we can win at home and we can win away in some of the best teams in the competition."
Enter the Highlanders, the team nobody saw coming.
The Dunedin-based side have won eight and lost six this year but collected 10 bonus points to go into the match in fourth spot.
"The destiny is in our own hands. We are not the teams below us who are hoping this happens and that happens," Joseph said.
"We've just got to go out there and play the best we can and put together a performance we can be proud of and, hopefully, go forward in this competition."
The Waratahs have kept their hands on the steering wheel all season and must negotiate a final few turns to reach their goal of a top two finish to the regular season.
Coach Michael Cheika predicted the clash would go down to the wire and signalled his intent to "turn the dial up" on the Waratahs' game plan.
"Because it's getting closer to finals you want to improve as well, so you want to try to turn the dial up a little bit on the volume of everything - your hits, your pace around the park, your work off the ball."