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 , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821