NSW Waratahs will stick with high-octane plan for Super Rugby clash with Bulls

The Waratahs refuse to change their ways.

The fifth-placed side knows a win against the Bulls at Allianz Stadium is crucial if it wants to keep its finals dreams alive.

The Waratahs also know the considerable risks associated with their style of running rugby, risks that cost them against the Brumbies, Sharks and, most recently, the Force.

Captain Dave Dennis said a more nuanced game plan, with space to kick and chase when the running and passing is going nowhere, was the key to keeping opposition teams guessing.

But it is clear the Waratahs will live or die by their high-octane brand.

"That's what it is. We've got stuff written up on the walls and we're just trying to stay true to that," Dennis said.

"[Coach Michael Cheika] has just said 'go for it' and he's happy to answer any questions at the end of the year if it hasn't worked out.

"But as a group, we've got a strong belief in what we're doing and we feel if we play our style as well as we can, we'll put a lot of teams under pressure and win more games than we'll lose.

"I think that will be the case again [on Saturday]. If we can put them under pressure, run them around a bit, we'll get a good result hopefully."

The Waratahs are on the right side of the win-loss ratio, just, as they approach the halfway point of the season.

Four wins against the Force, the Reds, Rebels and Stormers – and four bonus points – shade their three losses. But a loss at home against the Victor Matfield-led Bulls will test faith in a game plan that is so dependent on perfect execution.

The early signs, three four-try bonus points in the first four games, were good but the loss of Israel Folau exposed cracks in the Waratahs' flashy veneer.

The Force's opportunistic upset last week was built entirely on NSW's frailties. The Bulls will have studied the attitude Michael Foley's side brought to that game and be looking to summon a similar belligerence to secure the win.

"From the start, Cheika always made it clear that the way we play, it puts a bit more pressure on the individual to make sure his skills are good," Dennis said.

"It's not easy. You're virtually going from guys who have never really played that style of football where the ball's in play a lot.

"I think [former Bulls second-rower Jacques Potgieter] was saying, he's had more passes here than he had in three years at the Bulls.

"So it's just a different mindset and it's an ability to do the same skill over and over very well. That's what the challenge is."

The Bulls are eighth on the competition ladder and second in the South African conference.

After two recent losses away to the Hurricanes and Highlanders, they welcome back second-rower and captain Flip van der Merwe from injury.

Van der Merwe will team up with lineout specialist Matfield in the second row and give the Waratahs a serious challenge at the set-piece. But the South Africans have more than Matfield and a fearsome maul in their bag of tricks.

The Bulls have scored an average of 2.6 tries in their past five games, compared with the Waratahs' 1.8 tries. Those numbers have put the Waratahs on notice, even as they talk about kicking more to vary their attack.

Winger Francois Hougaard is just one try away from 100 Super Rugby points. Hougaard, fullback Jurgen Visser and winger Bjorn Basson will be a handful.

"We feel you can't give them too much loose ball because they've got good guys in the back three, who can run the ball back," Dennis said.

"Traditionally they like to go for the box kick and play for territory but we're conscious of not giving them too much ball. We'll stick to the same principles ... if we have a chance to have a crack we will, but we have to be smart about it."

This story NSW Waratahs will stick with high-octane plan for Super Rugby clash with Bulls first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.