Preview: Waratahs v Reds

Date published: June 12 2015

The most famous match-up in Australian rugby will be crucial in Sydney as the Waratahs try to wrap up second spot in the overall table.

The defending Super Rugby champions know that maximum points against the Reds will see them top the Australian conference and set up a home semi-final.

Anything less and they could be leapfrogged by the Brumbies, and could even drop as far as sixth if other results go against them.

That would be something of a surprise though, with their last home defeat coming back in April and the Reds entering this one on the back of a thrashing at home to the Chiefs.

Richard Graham's team will be keen to give a good send-off to departing duo James Horwill and Will Genia, as well as potentially Quade Cooper, but other than that, they have little to play for.

The 'Tahs, on the other hand, will be desperate to earn a top two spot, especially to give themselves a week off after a run of ten straight games because of an early bye.

Given Michael Cheika's reluctance to rotate his team, that has seen a number of players feature in every game, with Israel Folau and Michael Hooper among those to have started all 15 matches.

Therefore a week's break could come in very useful, while also allowing Tolu Latu and Rob Horne to see out the remainder of their suspensions for dangerous tackles.

"We're very aware that no team's won with 10 on the trot so it would be a good achievement," said assistant coach Daryl Gibson.

"We know that [if] we get a bonus point win it takes care of everything. We're focused on making sure we improve from last week and the rest is playing. There's plenty at stake for both teams."

The last time these teams met: The 'Tahs cruised to a comfortable 23-5 win the last time the teams met, in Brisbane in Round Four. Bernard Foley finished with 18 points including a first-half try as the visitors cruised into a 13-0 half-time lead. Peter Betham grabbed their second after the break and despite a try from Marco Kotze with the final play of the game, the Reds never really threatened.

Players to watch: Back from suspension, Will Skelton has vowed not to tone down his physicality, so expect him to be up for this. The giant second row has improved his fitness this season and regularly manages the full 80 minutes. After a fortnight off, expect him to fly into the tackles against the Reds.

It will be the last time we see Will Genia and Quade Cooper paired together for the Reds, so let's hope they go out on a high. While the last couple of seasons have been tough on both because of injury, at their best, they formed a devastating half-back pairing. Michael Cheika will get to see up close whether they are potential Wallaby starters at the World Cup.

Team news: There are two changes for the Waratahs with the return of Will Skelton and Tatafu Polota-Nau. The Wallaby hooker has had a tough time of it recently with a succession of concussions, but has been passed fit for this one and comes into the starting lineup.

The Reds have made just one change, with Chris Kuridrani coming onto the wing in place of the injured Chris Feauai-Sautia.

Form: The Waratahs hammered the Cheetahs last time out with a hat-trick for Israel Folau and have now won three of their last four. At home they are unbeaten since April.

The Reds have improved a touch in the latter stages of the competition with wins over the Rebels and the Force, but they were well-beaten last time out at home to the Chiefs and will still finish well down the final table.

Prediction: The Waratahs have the form and the incentive to produce a big game here against a Reds team with nothing to play for. While it is a derby and dangerous to write the Reds off altogether, it would still be a real surprise to see them spring an upset. Waratahs by 15!

Previous results:
Waratahs won 23-5 in Brisbane
2014: Waratahs won 34-3 in Brisbane
2014: Waratahs won 32-5 in Sydney
2013: Reds won 14-12 in Sydney
2013: Reds won 25-17 in Brisbane

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Peter Betham

Reds: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: (two players to be omitted) 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Jake McIntyre, 24 Ben Tapuai, 25 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi

Date: Saturday, 13 June
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT, 21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien, Michael Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith