Planet Rugby

Waratahs replace Folau with Lance

25th March 2014 05:38

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Michael Cheika Waratahs SR 2013

Michael Cheika: Made six changes to his starting XV

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made six changes and brought in four new faces to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with the Sharks in Durban.

New to the 'Tahs this year, Jonno Lance, will make his debut in the light blue number 15 jersey, deputising for the injured Israel Folau.

The only player in the squad to win a Super Rugby title, Lance came to the Waratahs to play in the midfield but with Cheika refusing to tamper with the growing Foley-Beale 10-12 combination, he gets his chance from full-back.

That chance comes as the result of Folau being ruled out after copping a knock to the throat, 20 minutes into Friday's game against the Rebels.

Although he was able to play on until the 75th minute, 'Tahs' medical staff held him back from flying out to Africa with the team last Saturday.

Although expected to join his team-mates when the swelling subsided a few days later, the injury to his cricoid cartilage has not reacted as expected which has forced his travel schedule to be revised.

"I didn't think it would be this bad, there is still swelling in my throat and I will have to see the specialist again this Friday, it's disappointing," said Folau, who has now set his sights on being right for the game against the Stormers in Cape Town the following weekend.

Lance has a solid kicking game and is strong defensively but has big shoes to fill with Folau, the competition's leading try-scorer this season and the Waratahs' chief attacking weapon, posting eight tries in four games this season, just two shy of Peter Hewat's club record for a single season and seven adrift of the all-time Super Rugby season record of 15.

In the forwards Benn Robinson is back at loosehead prop in place of Paddy Ryan, while Wycliff Palu will make his Waratahs century when he runs on at number eight. Both came off the bench against the Rebels last week.

They're not the only changes with Cheika again shuffling the pack. Jacques Potgieter moves from flanker to lock, where he lines up alongside Kane Douglas, forcing Will Skelton to the bench.

Number eight last week, skipper Dave Dennis will start at blindside flanker, with Michael Hooper retained at openside.

Operating under the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' approach, Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley continue in the halves, and Kurtley Beale retains the number 12 jersey. Beale would have been considered the logical replacement for Folau at full-back but, with the 'Tahs' midfield the success story of the year so far, Cheika is reluctant to change the formula that has launched much of the Waratahs' running game and been the catalyst for three wins from four games.

Adam Ashley-Cooper will continue as Beale's centre partner and Peter Betham won't be moving off the right wing. Rob Horne is selected to start for the first time this season, in place of the fast feet of left wing Alofa Alofa.

With a game in hand, the Waratahs sit fourth on the overall table, just three points behind the table-topping Sharks. An away win could see the 'Tahs regain pole position but Cheika has warned that the Jake White coached side will be looking for vengeance after last weekend's loss to the Bulls.

"When we lost to the Brumbies we wanted to bite back and they'll want to do the same," said Cheika.

"It's up to us not to fold and fight fire with fire. We won't be scared to do it," he finished.

Waratahs: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Rob Horne, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: TBC.

Date: Saturday, March 29
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17.05 local (15.05 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)

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