New South Wales Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie is expecting a tough match against the Highlanders in Saturday’s Super 14 meeting in Dunedin.
The Waratahs currently occupy fourth place after a 20-3 win over the Hurricanes and a 20-17 loss to the Chiefs in South Africa.
And although the Highlanders are yet to win this season, McKenzie believes the formidable pack that the New Zealand team possesses will present a significant challenge for his side.
"There’s no doubt that they’ve got one of the biggest forward packs in the competition and playing with purpose is certainly important but you’ve got to play with your nous as well," he said.
"You’ve got to make sure that you’re smart about how you play these sorts of games so we’re the team travelling and we’ve got to make sure we get that bit right.
"But everyone’s aware they’ve got a big scrum and some very good ball carriers and they’ve got maybe four of five of the guys in the competition so far that are making the most inroads in terms of ball carries.
"So they’re actually a threatening side in that respect so there’s a bit of work for us but so far we’ve made the most tackles in the competition so we’re pretty tuned up there and that’s probably important for this game."
McKenzie believes that this year’s Super 14 competition will be one of the most even in memory, and that any number of teams could challenge for the top four at the end of the season.
Despite the loss to the Chiefs, the veteran coach feels the Waratahs are progressing well in 2008, and that the semi-finals are still an achievable goal at the end of the season.
"I think the fact that we’re able to generate opportunities – I’m looking at how we’re doing it and we’re making inroads, we’re making dents and we’re making holes – finishing of that there’s a patience issue there," he added.
"We’ve played some pretty good sides and again I’m starting to look at the trends in the competition and there’s only three teams that are averaging three-tries-plus and we’re one of them, so we’re doing something right.
"We’ve got an excitable bunch, we’ve got a bunch of guys who obviously went through lean times last year so in the end there’s an anxiety about scoring."