After leading the table-topping Bulls into the closing minutes of last Fridayâ€™s match, Head Coach Michael Foley has made four changes to the side in the hope of overcoming the second-placed Stormers.
The Cape Town side sit fourth in FxPro Super Rugby stakes, just one point adrift of their fellow South Africans who top the table with 46 points.Â Foley will be hoping that the return of his namesake will boost their efforts to deliver a winning performance in Cape Town in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Fullback Bernard Foley rejoins the side after a three-week injury absence and is joined by Brendan McKibbin, who returns at halfback. In the pack, Sitaleki Timani takes over from Kane Douglas at lock and Dave Dennis packs down at No 8 in place of Wycliff Palu. Â Â The decision on whether or not to play Tatafu Polota-Nau will be delayed until later in the week to ensure that the hooker has fully recovered from the head knock suffered in last weekâ€™s game.
Foleyâ€™s reinstatement at fullback means that Daniel Halangahu returns to the bench, despite earning the praise of Head Coach Michael Foley for his performance in round 12.
â€śDaniel (Halangahu) did an outstanding job at 15 last week.Â On the back of his performance, it was a challenge reinstating Bernard but he is the more familiar in that position and he was the incumbent.Â This is a very important game for us and Danielâ€™s ability to cover both 10 and 15 is a real plus.â€ť
The second change to the backline will see scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin return in place of South African import and marquee signing Sarel Pretorius. Preferred for the early part of the season, Pretorius made way for McKibbin in the match against the Sharks.
â€śBrendan made an impact in his first start putting in a man-of-the-match performance.Â After the Brumbies match (round 11), and with three matches in 13 days, we felt it was time to bring Sarel back and share the physical load on both players.Â After Sarelâ€™s contribution against the Bulls, Brendan returns to the starting side this week.
â€śKane and Cliffy have played a lot of minutes recently,â€ť said Foley, explaining the decision to rotate them, â€śand as weâ€™ve done with Dave Dennis and Dean Mumm in recent weeks, we recognise the need to take the physical and mental pressure off the players.â€ť
â€śDave Dennis has been a standout player for us.Â Heâ€™s chomping at the bit to get back in the side.â€ť
Although a regular on the side of the scrum, Dennis is equally comfortable at the base, as was demonstrated with his performance against the Blues in last yearâ€™s qualifying final.
â€śSita has had a major impact for us, whether from the start or off the bench,â€ť said the head coach, who knows he will need another hard-hitting performance from the big Tongan on Sunday.Â Although the two sides didnâ€™t meet last season, they faced off twice in 2010, with the Stormers (who currently sit at second in the South African conference, a point behind the leading Bulls) taking the honours at home on both occasions.
â€śThere are certainÂ things the Stormers do well that are easily identifiable,â€ť said Foley. â€śThe challenge for any team is being able to counter them.
â€śThey are very good at using their tactical kicking to bring their defence into the game, trapping you in your own half and forcing errors.
â€śBut the Crusaders have beaten the Stormers three times in three years.Â The Reds in their game last year (a 16-13 home victory) showed that when you recognise how to play them, you give yourselves the best chance of beating them.
â€śFor us, we have to be prepared and productive with our possession.â€ť
The Stormers and HSBC Waratahs have met on 16 occasions since 1995, with the Stormers (previously known as Western Province or the Western Stormers) winning on eight occasions, the HSBC Waratahs taking victory seven times and the scores level on one occasion. Â There is little between the teams when it comes to points scored either, with the NSW team scoring 336 points to the Cape Town sideâ€™s 349.
You can follow the HSBC Waratahsâ€™ FxPro Super Rugby round 13 clash with the Stormers live on Fox Sports 3 (channel 503) from 3am on Sunday morning or follow every score as it happens with the HSBC Waratahsâ€™ LIVE twitter updates by following @NSWWaratahs or searching #STOvWAR.
15. Bernard Foley (Sydney University)
14. Atieli Pakalani (Southern Districts)
13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)
12. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)
11. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
10. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), vice captain
9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)
8. Dave Dennis (Sydney University)
7. Chris Alcock (Eastwood)
6. Rocky Elsom (Randwick), captain
5. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)
4. Dean Mumm (Sydney University)
3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta)/John Ulugia (Southern Districts)
1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
16. John Ulugia (Southern Districts)/John Mann-Rea (Manly)
17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University)
18. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
19. Jono Jenkins (Sydney University)
20. Wycliff Palu (Manly)
21. Sarel Pretorius (Gordon)
22. Daniel Halangahu (Sydney University)