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 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39