Tonight the NSW Waratahs will take on the ACT Brumbies in both sides fifth game of Super Rugby this year. The traditional powerhouses of Australian rugby will be fighting to stay in touch with the Rebels at the top of the Australian conference, so expect a hard fought match.
So far this season the Brumbies have won two games and lost two, with the wins coming against a relatively weak Sunwolves and the underperforming Sharks. They have lost both of their games so far against Australian sides, beaten by the Rebels and Reds. Last game they scraped ahead of the Sharks in a scrappy encounter.
The Waratahs are slightly ahead with two wins, a draw and a loss. The wins have been against the Stormers and Rebels, with the draw in South Africa against the Sharks and the loss against the Jaguares in Argentina. The only other Australian side they have played is the table toping Rebels, whom they beat. Their last game was a clinic in attacking rugby as they blitzed the Rebels.
The Brumbies will welcome David Pocock back after a sabbatical last season and an injury. He is a big game player with a track record of causing havoc at the breakdown. The breakdown laws have, however, changed since Pocock last played, so it will be interesting to see how he copes.
This match will also see the two frontrunners for the Wallabies 7 jersey (and captaincy) go head to head. The battle between Pocock and his Waratahs counterpart Michael Hooper will go a long way towards deciding the result.
The Waratahs will start with Jake Gordon, recovered from a concussion, at halfback this week. They also bring behemoth winger Taqele Naiyaravoro off the bench for his first start of the season. Curtis Rona moves to outside centre to make room for him, and Lalakai Foketi drops to the bench.
With Israel Folau left on the right wing, the Waratahs are making no secret of their game plan. They will try and replicate their tactics against the Rebels, with attacking kicks to Folau being the attacking focus. They will then try to spread the ball wide against a fractured defence.
The Brumbies have yet to hit their stride, but will be hoping that the return of Pocock disrupts the Waratahs attack. They will try and win the game with their big forwards, as they have no hope of beating the Tahs out wide.
Both teams are coming off a bye last week, so fatigue shouldn’t be an issue. The Waratahs are in better form, and have discovered their best attacking weapon in kicks to Folau. The Brumbies know what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it – just ask Reece Hodge. NSW should win this one, and by quite a bit.