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Preview: Waratahs v Hurricanes

01st May 2014 23:13

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Waratahs full back Israel Folau in pre season game against Hurricanes

Threat: Israel Folau

Despite both teams having five wins from nine, it is the Hurricanes who enter this fixture with the Waratahs with more of a spring in their step.

Four wins in a row including back-to-back bonus-point victories have seen the 'Canes fly up the table to third, topping New Zealand's conference.

No one would have predicted that occurring after Round 5, but now, with players in form and a line-up that ticks many boxes, the question is can they continue this streak with a victory in Sydney. They'll have to do it against a side that will be determined to put right last week's dismal loss in Auckland.

The Waratahs fell at the Blues in that most recent clash - their third straight at Eden Park - and know that a defeat on Saturday would put a serious dent in their Australian conference hopes. They will therefore hope that a return to their home field recreates the early-season threats they showed.

Off-the-field matters have unfortunately dominated the hosts' headlines this week too as Michael Cheika was banned for six months, suspended until August 2015, after pleading guilty to misconduct in the Sharks game, with that summing up recent frustrations.

Since March 1 the Waratahs' record reads; won, lost, won, lost, won, lost, won, lost, with that inconsistent form ultimately seeing them relinquish Australia's top spot to the Brumbies. Losing star Wallaby full-back Israel Folau for a handful of those games of course played a factor, but there is definitely work to be done if they are to do what they set out this season and win the title. At the moment they'd have to do it the hard way in the play-offs.

The Hurricanes meanwhile are enjoying playing rugby again as their shackle-free style is at last being backed up by a strong forward pack, which is built on a very good front-row. We have mentioned previously about the improvements in Jeffery Toomaga-Allen's game while Ben Franks is one of the world's best looseheads. Dane Coles though is becoming more and more the international hooker as he and Jack Lam stand out in Mark Hammett's eight.

Andre Taylor is now back in full swing while Cory Jane is scoring tries again. Add in the positional switch of Alapati Leiua to centre and it seems everything the departing Hammett is touching right now turns to gold. Praise indeed without even getting to their half-backs.

The big ask now is to continue this form at a difficult venue such as this against a side that will mix power and size up front via the likes of Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jacques Potgieter and Wycliff Palu with the guile of Kurtley Beale and Folau. If they can, the 'Canes will be flying.

Form: The Waratahs lost last time out at the Blues while the Hurricanes beat the Reds at Westpac Stadium to stretch their winning streak to four matches. The 'Tahs though have yet to lose two matches on the spin in Super Rugby 2014 and are also unbeaten on home soil.

Previous results:

2013: Hurricanes won 41-29 in Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 33-12 in Sydney
2010: Waratahs won 32-16 in Sydney
2009: Waratahs won 26-22 in Wellington

Prediction: A tight game for sure and one we think the Waratahs will sneak by 3!

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 (c), 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendon McKibbin, 23 Jono Lance, 24 Alofa Alofa, 25 Cam Crawford.

Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.

Date: Saturday, May 3
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local (10:40 BST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia) , Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637