Today all three rugby games will feature at least one Australian side. This will culminate in a clash between Australian rugby’s biggest rivals, the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds. Today will also help clarify the position of all four Australian sides at the midpoint of the season.
First up the Rebels will face the Jaguares in an afternoon clash. The Argentinian side are loaded with talent, but are also inconsistent at the best of times. Given their propensity to implode even when they are at home, I doubt that they will have the intensity required to win the first game of their extended tour of Australia and New Zealand. The Rebels have a proven track record of ramming home the advantage, so expect to see them take out a bonus point as well.
Next up the Brumbies will play the Highlanders in Dunedin. These two sides are currently level on points, but momentum will be with the Brumbies. The Highlanders, however, will be desperate not to be the team to break the New Zealanders losing streak over Australian sides. At home I think they will be too strong – but the score will be closer than many expect.
And so we get to the highlight. Clashes between the Reds and Waratahs are always huge games, and playing in retro jerseys at the SCG will only enhance the feeling that this is a longstanding grudge match. These two sides have been rugby rivals for over 100 years, and they will show it tonight. The Waratahs have had a better run so far in 2018, but when these sides clash form means nothing.
The NSW/Queensland clash will feature an intriguing contest between different styles. The Reds have a very forward dominated game, attempting to grind out wins through attrition and with an iron defence. The Waratahs, on the other hand, play a far more open brand of rugby. Their lightweight forward pack will be severely tested.
One problem for the Reds is that even if they do get on top in the forwards early on, their backs don’t have the attacking flair to pile points on. The Waratahs will back themselves to stay in the contest early on, and pounce when Queensland’s monster forward pack starts to tire. NSW have proven this season that they are more than comfortable chasing teams down in the second half.
Given that the Brumbies found a way around the Reds defence last week, I expect the NSW backline to tear them apart in the second half. The Waratahs will not have a dominant pack, but they will have a very fit, fast and persistent one – and I don’t think the Reds will be able to strike when they get the chance. The Waratahs will run away with this one in the last 20 minutes.