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'We're still behind the Kiwis': Waratahs coach makes frank admission despite positive results

By AAP
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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They may be getting a little “greedy” but NSW Waratahs coach Darren Coleman is sure they aren’t getting ahead of themselves as a Super Rugby Pacific home final beckons.

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The Waratahs’ comeback win over Moana Pasifika in Auckland shot them to a 7-4 record ahead of hosting the Hurricanes (5-5) on Saturday.

It’s drawn them level with the fourth-placed Chiefs and rivals Queensland Reds, who are licking their wounds after three consecutive, bitter defeats.

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The Brumbies’ stoic 10-point defeat of the Chiefs in Hamilton kept them in equal top spot in another boost for Australian rugby, albeit offset by heavy losses to both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels that pushed them out of the top eight.

After a winless 2021 campaign, first-year coach Coleman admits he’s had to reset his goals.

“It’s funny, at the start of the year based off what the boys had come off, if you’d offered me sneaking into eighth I would have taken it,” he said.

“Now we’re getting a bit greedy and we’re setting our sights on catching the Chiefs and trying to get a home final.

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“We have come a long way.”

The Reds had shared top spot with the Brumbies, but are on the slide and have key men on the injury list with tough away games against the Blues and Crusaders to come.

Ironically, if the Reds are unable to stem the bleeding, they could finish seventh and land in a Canberra quarter-final against the Brumbies, should they finish second.

The Brumbies are eyeing the minor premiership after a third straight defeat of New Zealand opposition confirmed Dan McKellar’s side as the real deal.

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Chiefs skipper Sam Cane admitted the Brumbies had been “setting the benchmarks” this season, with their only loss coming in a dour affair against the Reds in Brisbane.

It’s more praise from across the ditch after wins last week for the Brumbies, Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels over newcomers Pasifika.

But Coleman isn’t kidding himself, after glancing at the ladder and remembering Australia’s miserable two-from-25 record against New Zealand sides last season.

“I’m happy to say we’re still behind the Kiwis,” he said.

“There’s no doubt with six teams head-to-head they’re better, but I’m comfy we’ve closed the gap a little bit, particularly our team.

“I’m not trumpeting that we’ve closed the gap (completely); we’re in there swinging but the Kiwis are still ahead no doubt.”

The Brumbies will host the Crusaders on Friday, while the Reds are hopeful James O’Connor can return from a knee injury to face the Blues at Eden Park.

The Waratahs could jump into outright fourth spot if they beat the Hurricanes at Leichhardt Oval while the Rebels host the Chiefs and the Force are away to the Highlanders.

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