Waratahs skipper says his team yet to peak
They've already set numerous records and topped the table for the first time, but the NSW Waratahs are only just warming up ahead of the Super Rugby finals.
In an ominous warning to their rivals, injured captain Dave Dennis believes the Waratahs are yet to peak and is backing his teammates to secure NSW a maiden championship with the longest winning streak since the great Crusaders side of 2002.
Coached by Robbie Deans and laden with All Blacks including Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Richie McCaw and Reuben Thorne, the Crusaders completed an unbeaten 13-game campaign 12 years ago.
To claim this year's title, the Waratahs will need to parlay their club-record seven-game winning streak into nine matches unbeaten and most likely defeat the Crusaders in a blockbuster August 2 grand final at ANZ Stadium.
Dennis has no doubts they will and believes the Waratahs will find an extra gear despite having already notched countless milestones during their dominant run to the playoffs.
The free-running Tahs have scored the most points of any team in 2014, conceded the fewest, racked up nine tryscoring bonus-point wins and lead the competition for tries, line breaks, run metres, offloads and tackle busts.
In five-eighth Bernard Foley and fullback Israel Folau, the Waratahs also possess the competition's leading pointscorer and top tryscorer and enter the finals fresh off their biggest-ever win over the Queensland Reds - when Folau didn't play.
Dennis, though, says the Waratahs are yet to hit their straps.
''I honestly feel as though we've won games in that seven-game (winning) period where we haven't been at our best,'' he said today.
''No disrespect to the teams we've played, but we haven't played that complete game yet.
''Last week we won by 30 points, but our set piece was down.
''The week before against the Highlanders, we won convincingly, but there were elements of our game that were down.
''There's a lot of motivation within the group to have that complete performance.
''I definitely don't think we've peaked as a team.''
Out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery, Dennis remains heavily involved and has noticed a steely edge to his teammates ahead of their sudden-death semi-final on Saturday week against either the Brumbies or Chiefs.
''Yesterday we went to Centennial Park and were running hills. There's just these little indicators within the group that are telling me that the boys are still motivated to improve as a team,'' he said.
''The reality is, we're going to have to if we want to win nine straight.
''But the whole thing with (coach Michael) Cheika and his mantra has been to build a winning attitude; everything we do is to win.
''We don't go out there to have a crack and hopefully get the result. We're going out there to win and that's reflected in our performances.
''I can't see why, with everything on the line in a semi-final, we won't maintain that attitude.''