NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has named an unchanged side for the NSW Waratah’ colossal Asteron Life Super Rugby Final against the seven-time champion Crusaders this Saturday night (7.30pm) at ANZ Stadium.
Coach Michael Cheika knows his side will have to step it up another level this week if they are to lay their hands on the ultimate prize. “We’ve got to keep pushing, holding on is not enough. We will go out there, play as we have all season and play good attacking footy and give them some trouble.
“The Crusaders are a powerful unit who really focus on their set piece and will be confident after taking apart a strong Sharks outfit.”
Explaining how the Tahs intended to overcome the visitors, hooker Tatafu Polota Nau said, “I will be taking this game as if it was my last, not worrying about what they are doing will be the key to victory against the Crusaders.”The Crusaders and Waratahs have met 20 times since Super Rugby started, with the Crusaders leading the way with 16 wins. The New Zealand side has taken the honours in the past 11 encounters, with the Tahs’ last win coming back in 2004 in Christchurch.
Despite this track record, coach Michael Cheika would be lying if he said the side wasn’t looking forward to Saturday night. The Tahs’ front row will see Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota Nau and Sekope Kepu lock bodies for the final time this year. Hard-man Jacques Potgieter will partner Kane Douglas, who plays his last game for the Tahs, in the second row.
Cheika has kept the loose forwards as is, with Wycliff Palu at No. 8, Stephen Hoiles at blindside and captain Michael Hooper at openside. The match will see Palu become the NSW Waratahs’ most capped No. 8 in Super Rugby history, with a total of 90 games.
Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will once again take charge of the Waratahs backline. Adam Ashley-Cooper holds on to the outside centre spot that has been his all season and will partner Kurtley Beale, who will make his 100th Super Rugby appearance (86 for Waratahs, 14 for Melbourne Rebels) and become the 10th most capped Waratah in Super Rugby when he runs out on to the pitch on Saturday night.
The back three remains unchanged, with Rob Horne on the left wing and Alofa Alofa on the right wing, with Israel Folau at fullback.
The bench for Saturday’s season climax sees one change made to last week’s lineup, with Peter Betham in for Cam Crawford. It’s been 16 weeks since Betham’s last appearance for the Waratahs, when he injured his foot against the Stormers in South Africa in Round 8.
The extended interchange will consist of Tolu Latu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Mitchell Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Carraro and Peter Betham, and will be narrowed down to the obligatory eight before gameday.
As Minor Premiers, the Waratahs will be seeking to right their wrongs from past Final losses to the Crusaders in 2005 and 2008. This is the first time the Waratahs have hosted a Super Rugby Final and Hooper and the squad will be looking to capitalize on the support of a potentially record-breaking home crowd to bring the state its first Super Rugby Title.
The NSW Waratahs team to take on the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, August 2 at 7.30pm is: 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 2.Tatafu Polota Nau (Parramatta), 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 4. Jacques Potgieter (Eastern Suburbs), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 6. Stephen Hoiles (Randwick), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly, captain), 8. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 9. Nick Phipps (Sydney University), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 11. Rob Horne (Southern Districts), 12. Kurtley Beale (Randwick),13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Alofa Alofa (West Harbour), 15. Israel Folau (Sydney University).
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16. Tolu Latu (Sydney University), 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University), 18. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 19. Will Skelton (Sydney University), 20. Mitchell Chapman (Eastern Suburbs), 21. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University), 22. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 23. Taqele Naiyaravoro (Parramatta) 24. Matt Carraro (Randwick), 25. Peter Betham (Sydney University).