Defiant NSW Waratahs still believe

Darren Walton
NSW Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper believes they can still make the Super Rugby finals

Not even a record-breaking loss to the Chiefs can break the NSW Waratahs' spirit with Michael Hooper defiantly declaring the battered Super Rugby side can still make the finals.

Even coach Rob Penney branded the Waratahs' 51-14 surrender in Wollongong last Friday night "embarrassing" and "not acceptable".

Hooper agrees it was certainly humbling.

But on Tuesday the self-proclaimed eternal optimist made the bold call that the Waratahs' season was anything but over despite their depressing one-from-five start.

"It's not dead in the water," Hooper said when asked by AAP what the Tahs hoped to salvage from this year's seemingly doomed campaign.

"Five games into an 18-round season - the Chiefs went 0 and five last year and made finals.

"So while we've made it very hard for ourselves, or harder, after dropping particularly the first three games, we've still got a lot to play for."

Hooper did acknowledge that the Waratahs' confidence had taken a jolt after the Chiefs piled on in six unanswered tries to turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 37-point mauling at WIN Stadium.

"You definitely take a hit there - 38 points in the second half if not something you can just shake off," the champion flanker said.

"We didn't keep that level that we finished that first half in and they capitalised and I think we got a bit shaken."

The Waratahs believe a spicy derby in Canberra against the Brumbies, the Australian conference leaders, on Sunday presents the perfect opportunity to rebound and rekindle their finals hopes.

"This week is fantastic. We're going to go down there and play on Sunday arvo - it's meant to be fantastic weather," Hooper said.

"The Brumbies are on top of their game at the moment; they've been exceptional in all parts.

"They've just traditionally been a really strong set-piece team but they're showing a lot in attack and defence."

The Waratahs are hopeful of having skipper Rob Simmons back from an ankle injury for what would be his 150th Super Rugby outing.

However, halfback Jake Gordon remains doubtful with a hamstring strain.

Superstar fullback Kurtley Beale will join retired Wallabies forward Benn Robinson as NSW's most-capped player with 148 Super Rugby matches.

"We've got a heap of motivation already," Hooper said.

"But ... Kurtley's obviously is an amazing achievement, particularly as he spent a couple of years away overseas and down in Melbourne."