Preview: Brumbies vs Waratahs

Many questions about the Australian conference will be answered when the Brumbies host the Waratahs on Saturday.

One gets the feeling that this is must-win for the Brumbies if they're to make it back-to-back regular-season bragging rights in the country. For the Waratahs it is a case of sticking to what's been working very well for them in the opening rounds as they look to go three from three in 2014.

Much was made about how the Brumbies would cope without Jake White at the top and so far the jury remains out as they have been hot and cold. Performances against the Reds – and in patches against the Hurricanes – didn't smack of a title-winning team. But in good spells against the Force and Canes, they did show an effective game plan. This week they can't afford anything but an 80-minute shift.

The Waratahs, meanwhile, look the best bet from Australia after their impressive start, which has been led by Israel Folau, Wycliff Palu and Kurtley Beale. Granted they met a shell-shocked Force side first up, who were a shadow of the team that defeated the Rebels, but the performance against the Reds was a statement of intent from a team that has for too long not lived up to the hype it's received.

Much rests on keeping the likes of Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Folau fit, of course, but coming through this away derby with victory would be a psychological fillip to the Sydney group, something they will need when they make visits to South Africa and New Zealand.

Everything is running smoothly at present though as even the experiment to try Jacques Potgieter in the second row looks to be paying off. The powerful runner is another string to Michael Cheika's bow as the coach already has blindside Dave Dennis as a lineout option.

The Brumbies, meanwhile, continue to get used to life without David Pocock as Jarrad Butler attempts to fill the gap left by the Wallaby. They just don't look as formidable as last year when they had George Smith around and the impact of the likes of Fotu Auelua off the bench.

Maybe it will come in time under Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher but at the moment the momentum is with the Waratahs. Will it be after Saturday?

Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Leon Power, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Jean-Pierre Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Locky McCaffrey, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Michael Dowsett, 23 Lionel Cronje.

Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Rob Horne, 24 Matt Carraro, 25 Jonno Lance.

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Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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