Waratahs prop Benn Robinson is bracing for an upfront battle of Test intensity when his side take on the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
There is a lot of excitement about the ANZ Stadium fixture turning into a clash of flamboyance and finesse between two back lines laden with Wallabies players who love running the ball.
But Robinson says the contest between the forwards – especially the front rows in the scrum – is poised to become epic considering the Test credentials of both packs.
He also dismisses the weight difference between the Waratahs pack that has been selected for Saturday, and the mobile and agile unit that started for the Reds (who are yet to name this week’s selection) in last weekend’s win against the Brumbies in Canberra.
This week’s Waratahs pack, with South African Jacques Potgieter (115kg) coming into the run-on second row for Will Skelton (135kg) totals 905kg in weight and has an accrued Test cap count of 226, while the Reds’ pack that last weekend came in at 883kg boasts 191 caps.
The two front rows have tallied many of those caps.
For NSW loosehead prop Robinson (66 Tests), hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (46) and tighthead Paddy Ryan (2) have a total of 114 caps.
For the Reds loosehead prop James Slipper (49), hooker Saia Faingaa (29) and tighthead Greg Holmes (13) have 91 caps.
“I don’t see them as a small pack whatsoever,” Robinson said.
“Across the board they are big boys.
“And their front row is a Test front row. They have plenty of experience. I don’t think they lack in size whatsoever.”
Robinson expects Saturday to be more challenging up front than against the Force who lost to NSW 43-21 on Sunday.
“I think so,” Robinson said.
“If you look at the number of Super Rugby and Test caps and experience, I expect a bigger challenge. That’s no disrespect to the Force whatsoever.
“With Holmesy playing tight head and Slipps at loose head they are a very efficient front row.
“Their locks are powerful and know what they are doing.
“Against the Brumbies, they had them under a lot of heat, a lot of pressure. They even got a set-piece try.”
That the Waratahs have not beaten the Reds since 2011 sits frustratingly under the skin of long serving Waratahs like Robinson.
Reminded of that run of losses, Robinson said: “It’s been a while.
“They have always been a strong competitor – NSW-Queensland is the game you want to win.”
But Robinson said that having Potgieter, who has played two Tests for the Springboks, start the game should add fire at the breakdown.
“It’s pretty obvious to see what style of game Jacques brings,” Robinson said.
“He is very abrasive, a very physical type of player.
“Against a Reds side that are very physical at the breakdown, he’s an added bonus for us.”
While Robinson said Potgieter “is not your natural lock” but “more your natural flanker”, he said a scrummaging session against the Argentine Pampas on Monday saw Potgieter fit in well to the second row in which he will pack down behind Robinson.
“He is always asking the questions and always wants to make sure he is doing the right thing,” Robinson said.
“He’s on top of his game there.”