The Waratahs need to deliver a tactically astute performance against the improving Reds in Brisbane on Sunday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Daryl Gibson's men had no answer to the Highlanders' kicking game last weekend, and if they want to be considered as serious playoff contenders it's an area they have to improve on.
The return of chief playmaker Bernard Foley may be just what the misfiring Waratahs need. Having featured in every single match for the Sydney-based team during the previous three years, Foley sat out the opening parts of the 2016 tournament after sustaining a shoulder injury in pre-season.
In that time Kurtey Beale took over at flyhalf and has not looked out of place, but that shift left the Waratahs lean in midfield, which could be the cause of their impotency on attack. The two ought to start in tandem this weekend in a move that will sharpen the team's kicking and attacking game.
The Waratahs humbled the Reds 30-10 at the Sydney Football Stadium in February, but have since lost two in a row; while the Queenslanders have shown a slight improvement following an overhaul in their coaching structures.
As they did in the round one, the Waratahs should easily see off a Reds team devoid of any real game breakers, but by their own standards the Tahs have been pedestrian.
If they play anything like in that first half against the Highlanders, where the forwards were blown off the park and the backs reduced to ineffective bystanders, the Reds will take full advantage as they look to end a five-game losing streak in this fixture.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 13, Waratahs 12
In Brisbane: Reds 7, Waratahs 5
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Waratahs have won their last five matches against the Reds, and conceded only 28 points across that period. Prior to that the Reds had also won five straight matches in this fixture.
– The Waratahs have lost their last two matches and will be hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat for the first time since a horror run of nine straight losses from 2012 to 2013.
– The Reds haven’t gone two matches without a loss in Super Rugby since round 17 in 2014, and they’ll be aiming to equal that after a draw against the Blues last week.
– The Waratahs’ opposition have kicked an average of just 1.3 penalty goals per game this season, no team concedes fewer.
– League convert Eto Nabuli has averaged 11.5m per carry so far this season, the most of any player who’s made more than 20 carries.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Reds||Jake McIntyre (33)||Jake McIntyre (2)||Eto Nabuli (264)||Jake Schatz (47)|
|Waratahs||Kurtley Beale (18)||Jed Holloway (3)||Israel Folau (267)||Michael Hooper (43)|
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 David Dennis, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Angus Taavao, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images