Planet Rugby

Preview: Waratahs vs Brumbies

16th May 2013 13:08

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Benn Robinson

Unsung hero: Benn Robinson

Having begun the season in under-whelming fashion, the Waratahs have sprung to life somewhat and look a much better unit than Sydney sides in recent years.

This new lease of life will be thoroughly tested when they welcome the Brumbies to ANZ Stadium on Saturday, where the home fans are expected to be out in force.

The Waratahs have only lost once at home, a disappointing 27-26 defeat at the hands of the Cheetahs, and they are now quite a different side to the one that went down to the men from Bloemfontein.

It's the attacking exploits of Israel Folau that are garnering all of the plaudits at present but one can't underestimate the impact made by the rest of the backline, but more importantly the forward pack that have provided the full-back the platform from which to shine.

Michael Cheika's men are beginning to click, with a tight-five anchored by Wallabies Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson complimenting a strong back-row of Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper and skipper Dave Dennis.

The half-back pairing of Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley may not set the world alight but they're solid campaigners and with Rob Horne and Adam Ashley-Cooper in the midfield and Folau, Drew Mitchell and Cam Crawford in the back division, the 'Tahs have an impressive team on paper - and that is beginning to translate into a positive string of results.

The Brumbies have fallen off the radar after a loss to the Crusaders a fortnight ago was followed by a week off. As a result, Jake White's troops have had two weeks to mull over that defeat and their response will be interesting to see and is quite hard to predict.

White has indicated that the selection of Scott Fardy at lock and Scott Sio in the front-row is an attempt to beef up the forward pack, with the South African perhaps of the opinion that hammering the Waratahs up front is the key to stopping their dangerous backs.

The Brumbies still top the Australian conference by a point from the Reds, who have played an extra game, with the Waratahs 11 points adrift. The men from Canberra also head the overall table. However, despite this position of ascendancy, they haven't been wholly convincing since returning from an early-season tour of South Africa.

It was near on two months ago that the Brumbies really sent out a warning sign when they shredded the Sharks in Durban - at a time when their hosts were still on a high. Since then they have notched up a controversial win over the Bulls, a defeat of the bottom-feeders the Highlanders and an impressive dismantling of the Force. Mixed in between those wins have been draws to the Kings and the Reds and losses to the Stormers and the Crusaders.

The results perhaps don't tell the full story either way, but despite their high standing, confidence doesn't overflow when one considers the Brumbies. Whether that is a result of their brief absence from the field or a few iffy performances, they will subsequently want to come out and make a point against the Waratahs.

There will also be a few players looking to make a statement to coach Robbie Deans, with a head-to-head battle between Folau and his opposite number Jesse Mogg a mouth-watering prospect.

Prediction: Neither team will struggle to get up for this derby clash and it will be the team that dominates up front that will come out on top. The Waratahs by three!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau. 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (capt) 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Peter Betham.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Pat McCabe.

Date: Saturday, May 18
Kick-off: 19:40 local (11:40 BST, 10:40 GMT)
Venue: ANZ Stadium. Sydney
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: Peter Marshall (Australia)

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