Planet Rugby

Hooper ready for physical battle

26th April 2013 12:36


Waratahs openside Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper: Waratahs flanker to take the Bulls by the horns

Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper has little doubt as to what awaits his team when they run out at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

No Australian outfit has won in Pretoria since 2007, with the Waratahs last victory at the Bulls' fortress all the way back in 2002.

Such an impressive record is surely daunting for the Waratahs, but Hooper reveals that it is a point they are embracing.

"I think the last two times we've been there we've been really close and have actually lead at some stage," he explained to Planet Rugby.

"Last week we knocked off the defending champions and this week everyone wants to beat the Bulls at Loftus and that's an exciting challenge for us. You have to beat teams like them to get into the finals so we're looking forward to it."

Michael Cheika's men come into the match on the back of a great victory over the Chiefs last time out. And while the New Zealand outfit were full of running, the Bulls provide an entirely different challenge with the game likely to be won and lost up front.

"It's a big week for our forward back this weekend," said Hooper.

"They're big guys and they run hard and straight. Different teams provide a different challenge and we've already played one South African team and we're looking forward to facing another.

"Every South African team has a pretty good back row and a big back row at that. We've really got to be up for the physical challenge this week."

The Waratahs have endured somewhat of a frustrating season, with wins over the Chiefs and Blues mixed in with disappointing loses to the Force and Cheetahs.

Hooper concedes that their form has not been good enough, with consistency the name of the game.

"You've got to be consistent in this competition - anyone can beat anyone on any given weekend," he said.

"We've found that, we've beaten top teams and lost to teams we probably should have beaten.

"We're now trying to chase that consistency; we have four wins from eight so we need to win this game and while that puts pressure on the team it also gets us up and ready for the match."

The 'Tahs have extra incentive to bag a win, with long-serving hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau set to win his 100th cap for the Waratahs. The Wallaby made his debut for the franchise in 2005 and will join an elite group of players who have passed the 100 mark.

"He's obviously a great player, a great club man and a great Wallaby so as a team we're really keen to go out there and do a job for him and give him a win," Hooper said of Polota-Nau.

"He's a super guy off the field and we just want to do our best and make his night even more special."

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