The Blues need Jerome Kaino to disrupt the Waratahs if they are to get that elusive first win of the season in Sydney on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
John Kirwan's charges have lost their first five games this year, as well as 17 of their last 18 away matches. This while the Waratahs boast five straight victories over New Zealand opposition in Sydney, including the 2014 final against the Crusaders.
The Waratahs made a stuttering start to the season but are slowly finding their stride, with last week's 28-13 win over the Brumbies their best performance of 2015 so far. They finally played like the champion side of 2014, with good cohesion between the forwards and backs leading to clinical execution, something they lacked in previous outings.
If the Blues want to end their poor form on the road and derail the hosts, Kaino, who comes into the run-on XV as one of three changes, has to disrupt the Tahs at the breakdown and nullify the influence of opposite number Wycliff Palu.
The two other changes to Kirwan's side sees the hard-running George Moala slot in at outside centre with Charles Piutau shifting to fullback, while Dan Bowden for Ihaia West is a straight swap at flyhalf. This sets up an enticing battle between Israel Folau and Piutau, who could boost his claim for World Cup selection if he gets the upper-hand over the incumbent Wallabies fullback.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 7, Blues 12
In Sydney: Waratahs 6, Blues 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The Blues have won three of the last four matches between these sides.
– The last five matches between the sides have been won by the home side on the day.
– The Blues have picked up a losing bonus point in their last three defeats to the Waratahs.
– The Tahs have been beaten by margins greater than seven points in each of their last three defeats to the Auckland-based side.
– With regard to turnovers won, the Waratahs (4.6) and Blues (5.2) are the worst and third-worst performing teams respectively.
– The Blues (16:25) and the Waratahs (16:11) rank first and third respectively for average time spent in possession this season.
– Only the Hurricanes (seven), have scored more final-quarter tries than the Waratahs (six), while the Blues have scored the joint-fewest in the same timeframe (one).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (55)||Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Stephen Hoiles, Taqele Naiyaravoro (2)||Israel Folau (588)||Michael Hooper (66)|
|Blues||Ihaia West (56)||Jerome Kaino (2)||Lolagi Visinia (510)||James Parsons (33)|
Waratahs – 15 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 (two to be ommitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Tatafu Polota-Nau,l 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Paddy Ryan, 20 Sam Lousi, 21 Mitchell Chapman, 22 Stephen Hoiles, 23 Brendan McKibbin, 24 Jono Lance 25 Peter Betham
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi/Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Pita Ahki.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images