Two fixtures are on the schedule this Friday with both billed as being entertaining affairs. It's Round Seven of Super Rugby 2011.
Two fixtures are on the Super Rugby schedule this Friday with both billed as being entertaining affairs as the season moves into Round Seven.
Fresh from a bye week, the Highlanders kick things off against a Brumbies outfit that has won just one of its five clashes so far in the year.
Following those events in Invercargill we are off to Sydney where the Waratahs will have to be smart for 80 minutes in order to keep the Chiefs quiet.
Very much a mid-table theme then to this Friday, but the Highlanders and 'Tahs will be driven by the knowledge a win here would see them climb.
Highlanders vs Brumbies
It was apparent at the time that the Highlanders were in need of a round off when they fell quite convincingly to the Crusaders on March 19.
That runaway 44-13 defeat at this very ground illustrated just how much effort they had exerted during the opening five rounds. The hosts were down only 13-6 at the interval against their South Island rivals but then could not keep up with the pace that has ousted all that's stood in the 'Saders path of late. Just ask the Sharks.
But following a two-week break, the Highlanders should be able to pick up from the top form that upset the Bulls in Pretoria. Helping their cause will be the return to fitness of both Kade Poki and off-season signing Colin Slade while there is a second start of the season for New Zealand second-row forward Tom Donnelly.
Slade could well be the missing piece of the jigsaw for coach Jamie Joseph, as we rate his back-row highly along with other areas of the field also not found lacking.
Meanwhile the Brumbies have not had themselves the most enjoyable start to the campaign and will hope a victory in Invercargill can be a catalyst for two winnable home fixtures against the Hurricanes and Western Force. However, it seems the days of the Canberra outfit challenging for silverware are over – for now at least.
It is clear they are missing talismen George Smith and Stirling Mortlock while the loss to injury of Stephen Hoiles is also an issue. Again without hooker Stephen Moore and with Adam Ashley-Cooper's move to the Waratahs next season being announced this week, the wise money would be on the hosts to win on Friday..
Prediction: Freshened hosts is good enough for me. Highlanders by 10!
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (capt).
Replacements: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 James Paterson.
Brumbies: 15 Matt Toomua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Dan Palmer, 18 Colby Faingaa, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Tyrone Smith, 22 Franky Fainifo.
Date: Friday, April 1
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Venue: Rugby Park, Invercargill
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Waratahs vs Chiefs
Changes have been necessary for the Waratahs this week following injuries to pivot Berrick Barnes and second-row Kane Douglas, but the return to fitness of hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau comes at just the right time for head coach Chris Hickey.
The physicality of the Wallaby has been sorely missed over the recent rounds and he will add some grunt alongside fellow returnee Benn Robinson. Elsewhere and there is a shift for Kurtley Beale, who'll bring an air of maverick-ness to the 10 role.
Hickey's side are the second most stingiest franchise in the competition to date, with only the table-topping Stormers letting in fewer points to date. And they will need their defence to be at its best on Friday as this Chiefs back-line can punish teams.
Tana Umaga will not be involved from the outset this week though as the assured figure of Dwayne Sweeney comes in at 12 alongside Richard Kahui. But it is the back-three at Ian Foster's disposal that can hurt teams as messieurs Masaga, Sivivatu and Nanai-Williams could play a role if they can establish parity up front.
But much like the Blues, this Chiefs side have an air of frustration attached to them. As much as the neutral loves both these aforementioned franchises, they can go off the boil in games and/or let errors creep into their play. So will it be Jekyll or Hyde?
Prediction: Again, home advantage should help. Waratahs by 7!
Waratahs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh (capt), 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Pat O'Connor, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Daniel Halangahu.
Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Dwayne Sweeney, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam (capt), 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Scott Waldrom, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Sona Taumalolo, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Tana Umaga, 22 Save Tokula.
Date: Friday, April 1
Kick-off: 19:40 (08:40)
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referee: James Leckie (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)