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Preview: Brumbies v Waratahs

13th March 2014 14:40

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Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper after scoring in 2013

Key game: Brumbies v 'Tahs

Many questions are to be answered about this Australian Conference on Saturday when the Brumbies host the Waratahs in a critical local derby.

One gets the feeling that this is must-win for the Brumbies if they're to make it back-to-back regular-season bragging rights in the country. For the Waratahs it is a case of sticking to what's been working very well for them in the opening rounds as they look to go 3 and 0 in 2014.

Much was made about how the Brumbies would cope without Jake White at the top and so far the jury remains out as they have been hot and cold. Performances against the Reds - and in patches against the Hurricanes - didn't smack of a title-winning franchise. But in good spells versus Western Force and the aforementioned 'Canes, they did show an effective gameplan. This week they can't afford anything but an 80-minute shift.

The Waratahs meanwhile look the best bet from Australia at the present time after their impressive start, which has been led by Israel Folau, Wycliff Palu and Kurtley Beale. Granted they met a shell-shocked Force side first up, who were a shadow of the team that defeated the Rebels, but the performance against the Reds was a statement of intent from a franchise that has for too long not lived up to the hype.

Much rests on keeping the likes of Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Folau fit of course but coming through this away derby with victory would be a psychological fillip to the Sydney group, something they will need when they make visits to South Africa and New Zealand.

Everything is running smoothly at present though as even the experiment to try Jacques Potgieter in the second-row looks to be paying off. The powerful runner is another string to Michael Cheika's bow as the coach already has blindside Dave Dennis as a line-out option.

The Brumbies meanwhile continue to get used to life without David Pocock as Jarrad Butler attempts to fill the gap left by the Wallaby. They just don't look as formidable as 2013 when they had George Smith around and the impact of the likes of Fotu Auelua off the bench.

Maybe it will come in time under coaching duo Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher but at the present time the momentum is with the Waratahs. Now, will it be after Saturday?

Prediction: A massive game awaits and we fancy the Waratahs to sneak it by 2!

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Jean-Pierre Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Locky McCaffrey, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Michael Dowsett, 23 Lionel Cronje.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 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 (capt), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Rob Horne, 24 Matt Carraro, 25 Jonno Lance.

Date: Saturday, March 15
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffman (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)

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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Crusaders1651
3Sharks1650
4Brumbies1645
5Chiefs1644
6Highlanders1642
7Hurricanes1641
8Western Force1640
9Bulls1638
10Blues1637
11Stormers1632
12Lions1631
13Reds1628
14Cheetahs1624
15Melbourne Rebels1621
Australian Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621
New Zealand Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637
South African Conference
Super Rugby Table
PosTeamPPts
1Sharks1650
2Bulls1638
3Stormers1632
4Lions1631
5Cheetahs1624