The Waratahs will be keen to get their campaign back on track when they host the Southern Kings in Sydney on Saturday.
After seven rounds of matches, the 2014 champions are yet to hit their straps and they are currently second from bottom on the Australian Conference table with just two victories.
Although they have battled this season, the Sydneysiders will be quietly confident ahead of this clash as they have won six of their last seven matches at home against South African sides, conceding more than one try in just two of those games.
And with world class players like Israel Folau, Bernard Foley and their captain, Michael Hooper, in their ranks they will fancy their chances against their opponents who have struggled again this year.
The Kings are at the bottom of the Africa 2 Conference standings and are currently on a five-match losing streak of which two were suffered recently against the Western Force and Reds on their Australian tour.
With two South African Super Rugby sides set to be axed at the end of the season as part of the tournament’s restructuring, the Kings are in danger of being one of those teams as they are amongst the tournament’s basement dwellers yet again.
Despite the Kings going down last week to the Reds, Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson is wary of his side’s opponents.
“They are going to come out and fight, and show real dogged determination,” he said.
“They’ve got guys out on the wings that can really hurt you with a lot of pace and they’ve got guys who are really good on the ball.
“Given what is going on off the field for their side, we know they will be even more determined to put in a strong performance.”
And although there is a sword hanging over their heads, the men from Port Elizabeth have not disgraced themselves and they impressed in those defeats to the Force and Reds.
Kings head coach Deon Davids expects a difficult assignment andknows his side will have to deliver their best performance of the season if they want to be beat the ‘Tahs.
“It’s going to be a very tough encounter this week,” he said.
“We have massive respect for our opponents – they are one of the top teams in this competition. They have a lot of international stars,” Southern Kings coach Deon Davids said on Wednesday.
“For us, it is about putting up a better performance. It is going to be a tough encounter – one we are really looking forward to.”
The last time the teams met: The only previous meeting between these sides was a one-sided affair in Port Elizabeth which the Waratahs won 72-10 – their biggest ever Super Rugby win. The Waratahs outscored their hosts by eleven tries to one with Cam Crawford leading the way with a hat-trick and Peter Betham scored a brace of five-pointers. Their other tries were scored by Israel Folau, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Ben Volavola and Tom Kingston. Sergeal Petersen scored the Kings’ only try.
Players to watch: The Waratahs have plenty of classy players in their run-on side and one player who is expected to play a pivotal role for them is Michael Hooper. As captain, he will be expected to lead by example and the Wallaby tearaway should also make a huge impact at the breakdown and defensively.
Also keep an eye on Kings flyer Makazole Mapimpi who showed against the Reds last week that he is dangerous with ball in hand and he was rewarded with a brace of tries in that fixture. Mapimpi possesses electrifying pace and if he finds himself in space, he will test the Waratahs defence.
Team news: Rob Horne has recovered from injury and has been included in the Waratahs’ starting line-up. Horne has been picked at outside centre while Israel Folau moves to full-back. Moving into the starting line up at lock is David McDuling, while Dean Mumm moves to the bench. Angus Ta’avao will also make his return, after being sidelined for six months when he broke his leg during the NRC Semi-Final.
Kings head coach Deon Davids has made four changes, including a positional switch, to his starting XV. There is one change in the back-line, which started in last weekend’s loss against the Reds in Brisbane, with Wandile Mjekevu taking over from Yaw Penxe on the right wing. In the forwards, Andisa Ntsila replaces Ruaan Lerm at number eight while Irne Herbst takes over from Mzwanele Zito in the second row. The final change is in the front row where Ross Geldenhuys takes over from Justin Forwood, who moves over to the other side of the scrum where he replaces Chris Heiberg who wore the number one jersey against the Reds.
Form: The Waratahs lost their last two matches – against the Crusaders and Hurricanes – with their last victory registered in Round 5 against the Rebels. Prior to that, they beat the Force in their season opener and their other losses were against the Lions, Sharks and Brumbies.
The Kings’ campaign started with a home loss against the Jaguares but they bounced back with an away win over the Sunwolves in their next match. They then suffered defeats against the Stormers, Sharks, Lions, Force and Reds.
Prediction: Although the Kings were competitive in their two previous matches against Australian opposition, they will struggle in this fixture. Waratahs to win by 22 points.
2013: Waratahs won 72-10 in Port Elizabeth
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David McDuling, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Angus Taavao, 18 David Lolohea, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Harry Jones
Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood
Replacements: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Mzwanele Zito, 20 Ruaan Lerm/Martin Bezuidenhout, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Stokkies Hanekom, 23 Pieter-Steyn de Wet
Date: Friday, April 21
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.45 local (09.45 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)