Preview: Waratahs v Brumbies


Even at this early stage of the Super Rugby campaign, the pressure is on the Waratahs as they take on the Brumbies in Sydney on Saturday.

Three defeats from five games does not make for pretty reading for the former champions and it's no surprise they are pre-game underdogs. What makes that fact more worrying for the 'Tahs is that the Brumbies' last game was a demolition at the hands of the Chiefs in Canberra.

Injuries and the off-season departures of players, along with a new coach, have made life tough for the Waratahs and this week it looks a makeshift side. While positives have been unearthed in Jed Holloway and David Horwitz, on paper they simply don't look anywhere near as strong.

On the positive side, history tells us that the Waratahs have won four of their last five games against the Brumbies, the ACT side snapping that streak with a 32-15 win in their last encounter.

Furthermore, the outfit from Sydney have won nine of their last eleven home matches against Super Rugby franchises from within Australia, keeping their opponents to eight points or fewer in five of those fixtures.

The Brumbies though will sense a victory. They must, however, play a whole lot better than they have done in their most recent games as their win at the Cheetahs was far from slick while the Chiefs brushed them aside before their bye week. They will hope that round off has done the trick.

The last time these teams met: The Brumbies dominated this Round Two meeting this season with a 32-15 win that saw Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, a penalty try and Nigel Ah Wong listed as scorers. Israel Folau and Nick Phipps responded for the 'Tahs who were well beaten.

Players to watch: It will be interesting to see how Israel Folau goes at outside centre as the 'Tahs look to maximise his skills. However, up against Tevita Kuridrani is a tough test and there is no doubt the powerful Brumby will look to attack that channel. Another Waratahs player who is worth watching is number eight Jed Holloway, as he has impressed with ball in hand this year and knows his way to the line.

For the Brumbies the absence of David Pocock means Jarrad Butler comes in while Jordan Smiler replaces the retired Ita Vaea. Former Reds player Butler has sizeable shoes to fill and goes up against Michael Hooper. He won't take a backwards step and is an underrated flank.

Team news: The Waratahs have made a number of changes as Kurtley Beale returns from injury and will slot in at inside centre. Matt Carraro replaces the injured Zac Guilford on the left wing. Israel Folau pairs up with Beale at centre, this makes way for Andrew Kellaway to earn his first start as he is fifteen. Will Skelton forms a second-row pairing with Dean Mumm. Young prop Tom Robertson makes his debut start.

As mentioned, the Brumbies are without the suspended David Pocock and now retired Ita Vaea so Jarrad Butler and Jordan Smiler start. Joe Powell come onto the replacements bench and hopes to make his second Super Rugby appearance for the franchise on Saturday.

Form: It has been a disappointing start to the Super Rugby season for the Waratahs as they are seven points off the Brumbies and Rebels. 2014's winners have lost three of their opening five fixtures, with two of those coming in their last three outings. 

The Brumbies headed into their bye week on the back of a crushing 48-23 loss at home to the Chiefs so will be desperate to get that out of their system on Saturday. Despite that they do still sit top of the Australian Conference after four wins, with the Rebels tied with them.

Prediction: Unfortunately for 'Tahs fans this could be another defeat. Even without their star flanker we think the Brumbies to win by seven.

Previous results:

2016: Brumbies won 32-15 in Canberra
2015: Waratahs won 13-10 in Canberra
2015: Waratahs won 28-13 in Sydney
2014: Waratahs won 26-8 in Sydney
2014: Waratahs won 39-8 in Sydney
2014: Brumbies won 28-23 in Canberra

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 David Dennis, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 David Horwitz

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Robbie Coleman, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Joe Powell, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong

Date: Saturday, April 16
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Michael Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith