The Chiefs will aim to strengthen their position at the top of the Australasian group when they take on the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
With a nine-two win-loss ratio, the Chiefs are one of the form teams of this year's competition and should easily beat the struggling Waratahs, who are leading a weak Australian conference.
The Chiefs will be gunning for maximum log points to ensure they stay top of the pile when Super Rugby takes a break for the June Tests, while the Waratahs will probably have to win this match to stay ahead of the Brumbies in the Australian conference.
Both teams like to play an attacking game, but it's the Chiefs who have converted their attacking opportunities into points, having scored 18 more tries than the Waratahs.
The Chiefs boast a potent backline, but their contesting in the air has been a worry for some time. If Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps target them with aerial kicks and bring midfielders Israel Folau and Rob Horne into play more often, it could create attacking opportunities for the Waratahs. Whether they take them is another story.
Among the fowards, lock Brodie Retallick has led the way for the Chiefs with three lineout steals, four turnovers, 49 tackles and 38 carries. He will be up against Will Skelton, who failed to make an impact against the Crusaders last weekend.
There is one injury-enforced change to the Chiefs starting lineup as No 8 Tom Sanders replaces Michael Leitch. The Waratahs have made three personnel changes and one positional switch. A shoulder injury to Jed Holloway sees Wycliff Palu start at No 8, Zac Guildford takes over from Reece Robinson on the left wing and Matt Carraro comes in for David Horwitz. Carraro will play on the right wing with Horne shifting to inside centre.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 12, Chiefs 7
In Sydney: Waratahs 7, Chiefs 2
STATS AND FACTS
– The Waratahs have won five of their last six games against the Chiefs, though this will be their first encounter since round 16 in 2014.
– The Chiefs have won only twice in Sydney in nine attempts, losing seven away to the Waratahs in total.
– The Chiefs have won all five of their games away from home so far this season; they are the only team yet to lose a game on the road.
– The Chiefs have scored 52 tries, the most of any team and they are the only side to have scored half a century of tries going into round 14.
– Israel Folau has gained an average of 97m per game in his last eight encounters with teams from New Zealand but despite scoring five tries in his last eight games overall, he hasn't scored against a Kiwi team since round 10 in 2015.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (80)||Israel Folau (6)||Israel Folau (832)||Michael Hooper (125)|
|Chiefs||Damian McKenzie (122)||Damian McKenzie (7)||Damian McKenzie (922)||Sam Cane (125)|
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Reece Robinson.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Sam Vaka.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images