Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has retained the team that beat the Rebels 19-41 in Melbourne for Saturday’s clash against the Chiefs in New Plymouth.
The Waratahs have won their last three Super Rugby matches in a row with bonus points for scoring four tries and Cheika thinks he has the right mix for the challenge that the Chiefs will bring. “I think against the Chiefs, it is the right formula,” said Cheika. “The team has a good balance: there’s good mobility, good physicality, a bit of hard, straight running, a bit of footwork, a bit of everything and it is important to have a balance to beat the Chiefs.”
The Waratahs have won three of their last four against the Chiefs but have lost the last eight straight in New Zealand. The last time NSW tasted victory across the ditch was in 2010. And the Chiefs’ humiliating 45-8 loss to the Hurricanes last weekend won’t make it any easier for the Waratahs to end their run of New Zealand losses but said Cheika, “We’ll be fired too.
“The issue isn’t about how the opposition comes out, it’s how we come out. In the past we’ve worried too much about how the opposition is going to play and we’ve reacted to that. If we want to be known as the hardest working team in the competition, this is the game to do it.
“If you’re going to play a grand final against a team that works hard, it’s going to be against the Chiefs. It’s a real test for us around our attitude, getting down and doing the job and going up against the odds. “Not many people will think we can get it done over there so we’ve got to make sure that we think we can do it and try and get the job done the best we can.”
Out to prove he’s still got what it takes after missing selection in the Wallabies’ 32-man squad, the Waratahs’ most capped Super Rugby prop Benn Robinson will start at openside, with Paddy Ryan, who made the train-on squad, at tighthead and Wallaby Tatafu Polota Nau at hooker. Leinster-bound Kane Douglas and Springbok hitman Jacques Potgieter are the locks.
Brushing aside talk that he could be in line for the Australian captaincy, Michael Hooper will be out to pillage as much ball as he can from openside breakaway. Dave Dennis, who led from the front last week, will skipper the side from blindside breakaway while Wycliff Palu, also in the Wallabies squad, is like red wine, getting better with age and will pack down at No. 8.
The standout halves pairing in the Australian conference, Wallaby squad members Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley have come through colts, grade and the Aussie Sevens teams together and will again be starting in the 9 and 10 jerseys respectively. Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper will pair up in the centres and the back three consists of Rob Horne and Alofa Alofa on the wings with Israel Folau, needing just one try to become the highest try scorer in a Waratahs’ Super season, at fullback.
1. Benn Robinson , 2.Tatafu Polota Nau , 3.Paddy Ryan , 4. Jacques Potgieter , 5. Kane Douglas , 6. Dave Dennis (c), 7. Michael Hooper , 8. Wycliff Palu , 9. Nick Phipps , 10. Bernard Foley , 11. Rob Horne , 12. Kurtley Beale , 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper , 14. Alofa Alofa , 15. Israel Folau
Replacements : 16. Hugh Roach , 17. Jeremy Tilse , 18. Sekope Kepu , 19. Will Skelton , 20. Stephen Hoiles , 21. Brendan McKibbin , 22. Jono Lance , 23. Matt Carraro