RUGBY UNION: A daily trudge past an empty trophy cabinet at NSW headquarters and "sour change rooms" on the weekends has the Waratahs ultra-motivated to beat the Rebels on Friday night, win some silverware and finally ignite their season.
NSW skipper Michael Hooper gave an insight into the raw hunger levels of his team ahead of the desperation derby at AAMI Park, in which the Rebels are searching for their first win of the year and the Waratahs are trying to snap a three-game losing streak.
The loser would require a miracle comeback to feature in the finals, let alone be a chance of winning Super Rugby.
There is a prize on the line, with the Rebels and NSW playing for the Weary Dunlop Trophy. The Victorians hold the trophy after winning it in Sydney last year, and last weekend the Waratahs lost the inaugural Dan Vickerman Cup as well to the Brumbies.
With the 2014 Super Rugby trophy long gone (and even that was hidden by Michael Cheika), the Tahs only have their third annual trophy - the Bob Templeton Cup - in the cabinet after beating the Reds last year.
"We walk through that part of the building every morning and it is empty. It sucks. We want stuff in there. At the weekend, the Vickerman trophy, we had one hand on it," Hooper said.
"I thought it was our best half of rugby this year and we let it slip. They have been sour change rooms and we need to turn that around. We need the belief and confidence we can do it. A win can go a long to doing that.
"All the younger players have seen the years previous and want to be a part of that, want to make history here, and that's a really positive sign.
"It is just working out how we are going to do that in the 2017 team. That's obviously been slow for us this year."
Too slow for Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, who responded to the Brumbies' victory in Sydney last weekend by making wholesale changes. Just one of the backline is starting in the same spot, with the return of Bernard Foley at No.10, Israel Folau moved to fullback, Jake Gordon starting as a new halfback and a new midfield of David Horwitz and Rob Horne.
Hooper said he could not question the effort of the Waratahs' team in each of their three losses, but a good performance and victory was required to get their season back on track.
"No one wants to win more than us. We are working hard, we just have to play," Hooper said.
"Short turnarounds are great because you don't have to sit and talk, you can just look forward and say let's just doing
"We are needing that win to pick us up and click, like we know we can."
The Rebels improved immensely to almost beat the table-topping Chiefs last week, and showed they can be judged on their insipid form of the first two rounds.
Hooper said the Tahs-Rebels game could come down to who wants it more and proves it with their actions
"It's going to come down that ball, it's a 50-50, and whatever team dives on it first is probably going to get the win of the game," he said.
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