EYES ON THE PRIZE: Waratahs captain Michael Hooper poses with the Super Rugby trophy yesterday.
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Waratahs captain Michael Hooper poses with the Super Rugby trophy yesterday. Matt Kinggetty IMAGES

Smells like team spirit at the Waratahs

INJURED captain Dave Dennis has been at the Waratahs for almost a decade - but says he has never been a part of a team as tight-knit as the class of 2014.

That is why he believes New South Wales will win its first Super Rugby title against the Crusaders juggernaut in Sydney tonight.

"I've been around the club for eight years now and internally, there's something special about this team," Dennis told APN.

"The players all have a massive amount of respect for each other - we play for each other and for our families, and that's a very powerful thing."

The Waratahs will need all of that emotion to get them over the line against the Crusaders - the most successful Super Rugby franchise with seven titles. The hosts have also not beaten their opponents in the past 11 match-ups.

But none of that matters to Dennis.

"There have been a lot of good changes at this club over the past two years, so we're not worried about the past," he said.

"(Waratahs coach) Michael Cheika has come in and got us genuinely working together as a group.

"He's given everyone a really clear understanding on what they need to do, and he's really passionate about the end result. Everyone puts in for him."

Dennis said all the hard work his teammates had done under Cheika was clearly on show against the Hurricanes in the 39-30 win back on May 3, kick-starting the team's eight-match winning streak.

"I wouldn't say it was a turning point in our season, but we were down 21-7 and there was no panic or fear among the boys," he said.

"We came back by scoring some great tries, and we haven't looked back since then."

For Dennis' teammates to notch up a ninth-straight victory and lift the trophy will require an enormous effort. The Crusaders team is choc-full of experience and stars.

Inside centre Dan Carter knows what it takes to win a title - he has three of them.

"The beauty of playing a team sport, when you do have success, it's a combination of every piece of the puzzle coming together," Carter said.

"The players, the management, you're all driving towards the same goal."

Both teams go into the grand final with unchanged line-ups from last weekend's semi-final victories.

WARATAHS: 1. Robinson, 2. Polota Nau, 3. Kepu, 4. Potgieter, 5. Douglas, 6. Hoiles, 7. Hooper (capt), 8. Palu, 9. Phipps, 10. Foley, 11. Horne, 12. Beale, 13. Ashley-Cooper, 14. Alofa, 15. Folau. Reserves (two to be omitted): 16. Latu, 17. Tilse, 18. Ryan, 19. Skelton, 20. Chapman, 21. McCutcheon, 22. McKibbin, 23. Naiyaravoro, 24. Carraro, 25. Betham.

CRUSADERS: 1. Crockett, 2. Flynn, 3. Franks, 4. Bird, 5. Whitelock, 6. McCaw, 7. Todd, 8. Read (capt), 9. Ellis, 10. Slade, 11. Nadolo, 12. Carter, 13. Crotty, Kieron Fonotia, 15. Dagg. Reserves: 16. Funnell, 17. Moody, 18. Laulala, 19. Tupou, 20. Taufua, 21. Heinz, 22. Taylor, 23. McNicholl.

GAME DAY

WARATAHS V CRUSADERS

At ANZ Stadium, 7.40pm


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