The Waratahs welcome the Brumbies to ANZ stadium on Saturday night in a clash that will have massive ramifications for the finals aspirations of both clubs.The equation is simple for both teams, if the Tahs (2nd) win they will jump to top of the ladder, whilst the Brumbies (5th) would jump above the Tahs with a win. Put simply the stakes couldn't be any higher.
The last three weeks of international rugby have showcased what to expect from both teams. The Brumbies have the masterful game manager Nic White whilst the Tahs have attacking talent across the field with Israel Folau, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale. With all this talent, the Tahs will hopefully look to turn the game into a shoot-out as they would be confident of having the superior firepower.
Whilst the Tahs were lucky to escape the international series without any major injuries, the Brumbies haven't been as lucky. Brumbies; Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, Pat Mccabe and Sam Carter will all miss tonights game through injuries sustained playing for the Wallabies. That being said the Brumbies still have a very strong squad regardless and there is no chance that Michael Cheika will take them any less seriously as he noted this week.
“We’ve got to play the 80 minutes out if we want to be contenders with the best teams.”
This game shapes as a chance for redemption for the Waratahs after their loss in Canberra early in the season. Back then the Tahs were slow out of the gates and allowed the Brumbies an early lead. Although the Tahs finished fast, a combination of the poor start and even worse refereeing meant they couldn't claw back the deficit. I would be shocked if Cheika allows them to start slowly again this week.
As always we take a look at five key things that will decide this weeks game:
1. Arrogance: The Tahs haven't lost a home game this year and they need to play like they know they are the better team this week. Don't give them an inch and take a mile for every Brumbies mistake.
2. Front Row: The Brumbies are fielding an inexperienced hooker in Ruaidhri Murphy, the Tahs front row need to give him a baptism of fire and hope that he can't handle it. If the Tahs get on top in the scrum they could dominate through field position.
3. Bench: Whilst the Brumbies have covered their injuries relatively well, the Tahs bench is scary compared to theirs. If the game is still tight after 50-60 minutes, expect players like Will Skelton to come on and make a massive difference.
4. Izzy: It shouldn't be a surprise that if he shows up for the Tahs they're going to be hard to beat. Hopefully he can continue his strong Wallabies form.
5. Cheika: The earlier clash against the Brumbies this year was the infamous broken door game, Cheika won't want to lose this and will throw everything at the Brumbies. Expect this to get fiery.
Prediction: Waratahs by 10.