Jacques Potgieter will be hoping to make headlines for the right reasons when the Waratahs face the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Tahs flank was fined A$20,000 and forced to apologise for uttering a homophobic slur during their match against the Brumbies in Sydney in March.
Since then, Potgieter has let his rugby do the talking and regained the form that made him such a vital member of the Tahs' title-winning team last year. He was guilty of losing the ball too often in contact earlier this season, but has improved in that regard to ensure his team gets over the advantage line.
Potgieter has also done well in the lineouts, stealing three opposition throws, and had an impact at the breakdown, making four turnovers.
Only four log points separate the Brumbies, who are second on the combined log, from the Waratahs, in seventh position, so Saturday's match could end up determining who wins the Australian conference and gets a home play-off.
The Brumbies appeared to be sliding out of title contention when they lost consecutive matches to the Blues and Rebels, but bounced back with a convincing win against the Highlanders last weekend. The Waratahs have been just as inconsistent recently, losing to the Stormers at home, before beating the Hurricanes away, and then scraping past the Rebels in Sydney last weekend. Good luck making that SuperBru pick, because this one could go either way.
The Brumbies have made two changes for the match, with lock Sam Carter and prop Ben Alexander coming into the starting XV. Wycliff Palu will start at No 8 for the Tahs, which sees Dave Dennis moving to lock.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 15, Brumbies 11
In Canberra: Brumbies 9, Waratahs 2
STATS AND FACTS
– The Waratahs have won the last three meetings between these sides, each by margins greater than two converted tries.
– The Tahs restricted the Brumbies to an aggregate of 29 points scored in this run.
– The Brumbies have won their last three home games against the Tahs and have lost just twice at home to the NSW outfit in Super Rugby (played 11, won nine).
– The Brumbies have won 12 of their last 13 home games, but their last two defeats in Canberra came at the hands of fellow Australian conference opposition.
– The Waratahs have won six of their last seven away from home, with five of these wins coming by margins of at least 10 points.
– The reigning champions have won two in a row but have not won three straight in 2015.
– The Brumbies are the only side yet to score a try from a possession that originated within their own half but have scored the most (18) when starting out with the ball in the opposition 22.
– The Tahs have scored 13 tries when starting with the ball in the attacking half but more than 22m from the tryline, a competition high.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Lealiifano (98)||David Pocock, Ben Alexander (3)||Henry Speight (471)||Jarrad Butler (87)|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (88)||Peter Betham, Rob Horne (4)||Israel Folau (860)||Michael Hooper (107)|
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Jordan Smiler, 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Joe Powell, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitch Chapman, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 24 Matt Carraro.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images