The Waratahs are targeting their match against the Blues as something approaching redemption after their last match at home, an atrocious defeat to the Southern Kings which left a sparse crowd at Allianz Stadium even more demoralised.

The Blues are aware of that, with skipper James Parsons saying this week his side were prepared to fight fire with fire. They will be expecting a ferocious start from a home side desperate to build on their last match - a precious victory over rivals the Reds in Brisbane.

Another defeat will turn their fans off further, and the Sydneysiders know the risk of that. A crowd of only 10,555 attended the Kings match, the lowest home figure in the team's 21-year history.

Few people, especially Australians, like backing losers, and compared with the same point last year, crowd numbers are down 29 per cent.


Kiwi coach Daryl Gibson's side, including the under-performing Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, might be unwilling to make mistakes while in possession against the Blues, who like the four other New Zealand teams this season, have the ability to hurt on the counter-attack.

In first-five Bernard Foley, they have a reasonably good tactical kicker, but they can't afford to kick too much ball away either.

The Blues back three of Rieko Ioane, Michael Collins and Matt Duffie are good at returning kicks, and Melani Nanai, who is likely to come off the bench in the second half, is in impressive finishing form.

Gibson has come under more than his fair share of criticism this season, but the struggles of his team merely reflect the wider problems of the game in Australia and he can't fix them by himself.

Apart from their skill level - and in particular their ball-handling abilities - one of the most alarming aspects of the Australian teams' struggles against their New Zealand counterparts is their lack of effort and intent on defence.

It is often passive and reactive, and at odds with the offensive attitude carried in particular by the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, but Gibson believes his team has turned a corner.

"The players and coaches are on the same page, we're certainly heading in the right direction," he said this week.

"The evidence for that will be how we turn up against the Blues; our execution, intent and urgency. And our players want to show our fans - the loyal ones who will turn up - exactly what we're about as a team. The fans' frustration is the players' frustration as well."

Michael Hooper, the skipper and loose forward, has been the one Waratahs player consistently performing every week but Gibson believes the attitude of the Wallabies player was shared by his teammates.

"When you've got a captain such as Michael Hooper who leads from the front, in everything he does from the training field and on the paddock, you can't help but follow," he said.

"He's starting to get the support now of the playing group in terms of getting really in behind him with their performances, and that's going to be good for the team."