Preview: Waratahs v Cheetahs

Date published: March 14 2013

The Waratahs return home to work on rebuilding their campaign when they take on the Cheetahs in Sydney on Friday.

The Waratahs return home to work on rebuilding their campaign when they take on the Cheetahs in Sydney on Friday.

After enduring a 35-6 humiliation in Canberra last weekend, the Waratahs will be under pressure to get their season back on track against a team still buzzing from an upset win over the Highlanders in Invercargill last weekend.

Friday's game will take on an extra level of intensity, as the Waratahs will still be reeling from their shock loss to the Cheetahs in 2011 which was the South African side's first-ever Super Rugby win overseas. And last season, the Waratahs were pipped 35-34 in Bloemfontein.

The Waratahs have made some wholesale changes for this encounter, with coach Michael Cheika not shy in wielding the axe as Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell found out.

In the six changes made from last weekend's loss, the most notable is the return of playmaker Berrick Barnes who has recovered from injury and will play at inside centre – replacing Tom Carter.

The Cheetahs are looking to make it two-from-two on their Australasian tour. And with form on their side as well as confidence in knowing they can defeat the 'Tahs in their own back yard, this Friday may well yield another surprise win for them.

The traditionally bottom-dwelling Cheetahs played with valour in defeating the Highlanders in New Zealand last week. They had control and mixed attacking rugby with rock-solid defence. And with an unchanged XV, coach Naka Drotske will look to maintain the same game-plan this weekend.

Looking at the visitors' line-up, they have a similar composition to the Brumbies – a strong breakdown featuring robust flanks – and the Waratahs will certainly have to go into the match with a different mindset.

With standout players like Hennie Daniller, Johan Goosen at fly-half and the dangerous Heinrich Brussow coming off the bench, the Cheetahs should be able to present a formidable backline.

Speedster Sarel Pretorius was the Waratahs' foreign import last season, but failed to make an impact and spent most of his Australian secondment on the bench.

However, he is back at the Cheetahs and has been in sizzling form, scoring twice in his team's three-try win last weekend, and will no doubt be looking to show his ex-club what they missed out on this time round.

Aloss at home will most likely shatter the Waratahs' fragile confidence level. And whilst it is early in the season, the fans may not be as forgiving and forgetful for a while. A loss also presents an opportunity for the Reds and Brumbies to break away in the Aussie Conference.

Prediction: Depending on which Cheetahs team turns up, it could either be a narrow and inspiring win for them, or a relapse back to their accustomed losing trend. But we think the Waratahs will bounce back this weekend and scrape through. 'Tahs by six!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 1 Benn Robinson, 2 John Ulugia, 3 Paddy Ryan, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 5 Kane Douglas, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 8 Pat McCutcheon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Mitchell Chapman, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Ben Volavola, 22 Rob Horne.

Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Heinrich Brussow, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smith, 22 Ryno Benjamin.

Date: Friday, 15 March
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Garratt Williamson
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)

By Doron Katz