Planet Rugby

Preview: Waratahs v Lions

16th May 2014 10:38

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Presence: Will Skelton

The Waratahs will look to build on their ferocious form at home when they host a resurgent Lions outfit in Sydney on Sunday.

Having won each of the five matches at the Allianz Stadium in what is proving to be a solid season for the New South Wales unit, a sixth successful day in front of their supporters will go a long way in ensuring they build some momentum ahead of two tough away fixtures.

Next week Michael Cheika's men take on the Rebels, who have also taken great pride in their performances at home, before travelling to Hamilton where they will square-off with the defending champions in the last match before the June Tests take priority.

Cheika made just one change to the starting line-up that beat the Hurricanes in their previous match with lock Will Skelton taking over from Jacques Potgieter, who was dropped to the bench as he is struggling with a leg injury.

Skelton, at 140kg, happens to be the biggest man in the Waratahs squad and his presence against one of the best scrumming units in the competition should come in handy.

"The Lions have been excellent in the scrum," said Cheika.

"They've pretty much dominated nearly every opposition that they've come up against, or they've had a really good contest with them, and it's going to be a big battle for our forwards out there."

Traditionally the 'Tahs have prided themselves in their work at the close exchanges, although their ability to pierce through defensive lines with explosive runners like Israel Folau has, in recent times, taken centre stage.

It would therefore be interesting to see whether league convert Taqele Naiyaravoro will be given a run as he too is believed to be one of those wingers who runs through, as opposed to around, other players.

The ideal time to give the 115kg Fijian his first Super Rugby cap would be when his side have a comfortable lead, although Cheika would have taken notes from the Lions' last outing where they saved all their strength for the final 40 minutes of play.

The Lions head into this contest having fallen inches short of what would have been a one of the best come-from-behind victories of the season.

They bounced back from a 23-0 half-time deficit in their match against the Highlanders and would eventually go down 22-23 in the most controversial of circumstances.

Having had more time to adapt to their new surroundings, Lions coach Johan Ackermann had only to make a few tweaks to his side and on that front he has implemented measures to counteract the threat Folau is likely to pose.

Ackermann opted to move Courtnall Skosan from wing to full-back as the experienced Deon van Rensburg makes his return to the squad while fellow winger JW Jonker was rewarded with a start for his solid second half performance the previous week.

The continuity Ackermann has tried to show with his team selection this season has done wonders for the culture that is taking shape within the most inexperienced side in the competition - although it also highlights just how little depth in personnel the former Springbok lock has at his disposal.

The Waratahs have a 93 percent win record against the Lions and are unlikely to let this one slip.

However, Cheika could very well send a thank you note to the Highlanders for highlighting that it is not impossible to lose against a group of players who are still finding their feet after spending a season in the wilderness.

Form: The Waratahs are experiencing one of their best seasons in recent years, and have picked-up four-try bonus points in four of their six victories this season. The Lions started well with four wins, but stand to lose their sixth consecutive match this week.

Previous Results:
2011: Waratahs beat Lions 29-12 in Sydney
2010: Waratahs beat Lions 77-12 in Sydney
2009: Waratahs beat Lions 38-33 in Johannesburg
2008: Waratahs beat Lions 26-3 in Sydney

Prediction: The Waratahs are at their best at home should target the bonus point. Waratahs by 18!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Alofa Alofa, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Lions: 15 Courtnall Skosan, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 JW Jonker, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6.Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Rudi Mathee, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Chrysander Botha

Date: Sunday, May 18
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kickoff: 16:05 (local, 06:05 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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