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
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs Australia14:30
USA vs New ZealandUSA vs New Zealand Preview
More International Match fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
Sunday , November 2
Saracens vs Harlequins13:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs EdinburghLeinster vs Edinburgh Preview
Glasgow vs Benetton TrevisoGlasgow vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Ospreys vs ConnachtOspreys vs Connacht Preview
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse13:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
Sunday , November 2
Toulon vs Grenoble13:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Castres 16 - 21 LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Report
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Report
Benetton Treviso 10 - 26 Racing Metro 92
Wasps 16 - 23 HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Report
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615