Planet Rugby

Preview: Waratahs v Highlanders

04th July 2014 08:00

Share:

WARATAHS CELEBRATE BEATING BRUMBIES

Form team: Waratahs

After six vital matches in a simmering penultimate regular-season round, the lid could come off the pot when the Waratahs take on the Highlanders.

Both will know a good deal about their prospects after those games that take place on Friday and Saturday, with the 'Tahs possibly wrapping up the table if the Sharks fail to win in Bloemfontein while their visitors to Sydney will hope the Blues do them a massive favour against the Crusaders.

Few would argue that the Waratahs would not be deserved regular-season winners and with the Sharks travelling to the Cheetahs and Stormers in the closing two rounds, they are hot favourites to do just that. On a purely entertainment basis they have scored 21 more tries than the Durban side.

They have not lost to the Highlanders in Sydney in their two most recent clashes in the city - the visitors having last won there in 2007 - so the Highlanders have a job on their hands against a side who have been making all the right noises. Credit must go to Michael Cheika for this.

It is unsurprising the same line-up that dispatched the Brumbies has been rolled out - one enforced alteration seeing Dave Dennis replaced by Stephen Hoiles - as they have been maturing as a team as the competition has developed. Will Skelton is again on the bench.

No player has had a poor season which is a difficult feat to attain for a coach and all the more impressive seeing as Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale and Jacques Potgieter have had to bed in to new roles. All three have done so in style but face tough opposition this Sunday.

The Highlanders picked up that priceless win against the Chiefs last week that gives them the knowledge that one win from two during the final rounds would guarantee them play-off rugby. But such is their drive, the sight of two from two would see them win the conference.

As mentioned, a lot might rest on how the Crusaders fare against the Blues and if the Aucklanders can repeat their hugely impressive Perth performance in Christchurch.

But with all the permutations it would be foolish to overlook just what a prospect this game is on a Sunday afternoon, with such kick-off times usually leading to free-flowing rugby that leads to tries. With the likes of Israel Folau and Ben Smith on show, we'd say it's a certainty.

Form: The Waratahs are on a five-game winning run, averaging 38.6 points scored in those matches. Meanwhile, the Highlanders have claimed at least a point from all but one game in 2014 and bounced back from two defeats with a victory over the Chiefs last weekend.

Recent results:

2012: Highlanders won 18-17 in Dunedin
2011: Waratahs won 33-7 in Sydney
2010: Highlanders won 26-10 in Invercargill
2009: Waratahs won 34-16 in Sydney
2008: Waratahs won 15-12 in Dunedin
2007: Highlanders won 26-25 in Sydney

Prediction: Plenty of points with the hosts coming out on top. Waratahs by 10!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (capt), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Kane Dougles, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitch Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Jono Lance, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 25 Cam Crawford (two to be omitted).

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Lee Allan, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Date: Sunday, July 6
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 16:05 local (07:05 BST, 06:05 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Eeferees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00