Tahs must fix defensive frailties

The Waratahs need a better defensive performance if they are to contain the Brumbies in Sydney on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.

The Vodacom Super Rugby champions have conceded 13 tries in four matches – including four tries per match on three occasions. This while the Brumbies have leaked just three tries and scored 18 in their five outings to date.

Michael Hooper leads the Tahs' tackle count with 54, but against the Highlanders in Dunedin, he and the majority of his teammates came unstuck yet again as the Highlanders breached their defence with ease. If the same happens in Sydney, the clinical Brumbies, who are the competition's leading try- and point-scorers, will punish their bitter rivals.

In contrast, the Waratahs as a collective, have been all but clinical during these early stages, conceding 35 penalties, while they have also received four yellow cards due to indiscipline. Michael Cheika's men will, however, find comfort in the knowledge they have won eight of their last 10 games against the Brumbies in Sydney.

But this Brumbies outfit will test the hosts, who have been criticised for sticking to an attacking game plan, even when the situation demanded the opposite. 

At the back of players' minds will be the fact that this is an audition for World Cup selection later this year, with the opposing coaches on the day (Cheika and Stephen Larkham), being the head and assistant coaches of the Wallabies. 

Cheika has made two changes to his run-on XV, with wing Taqele Naiyaravoro and hooker Tolu Latu coming in for Peter Betham and Tatafu Polota-Nau respectively. 

Meanwhile, Larkham has retained his starting lineup, with the return of flank David Pocock boosting their match-day squad. The Zimbabwe-born flanker could play an influential role in deciding who walks away with the bragging rights in Sydney.

Overall: Waratahs 14, Brumbies 11
In Sydney: Waratahs 12, Brumbies 2

– The Waratahs have won eight of the last nine meetings between these rivals in Sydney and have limited the Brumbies to no more than eight points in three of their last four wins during that run.
– No side has averaged more points (28) or tries (3.6) scored per game this season than the Brumbies, who have also conceded the fewest (10.4 and 0.6 respectively).
– The Waratahs however have averaged more carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten than any other side this season.
– The Brumbies have allowed their opponents fewer metres and clean breaks than any other team this season, conceding 330m and 3.6 clean breaks on average per game.
– The Tahs have conceded more turnovers, and won fewer in defence, than any other side this season.
– Nic White has been directly involved in six tries so far this season (two tries, four assists), more than any other player in Super Rugby this year.

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Waratahs Bernard Foley (40) Rob Horne, Stephen Hoiles, Taqele Naiyaravoro (2) Israel Folau (455) Michael Hooper (54)
Brumbies Christian Leali'ifano (52) Ben Alexander (3) Robbie Coleman (237) Jarrad Butler (62)

Waratahs – 5 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.

Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Mitchell Chapman, 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Jono Lance, 24 Peter Betham.

Brumbies – 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.

Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 David Pocock, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Lausii Taliauli, 23 James Dargaville.

Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

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