Taqele Naiyaravoro will be keen to continue his try-scoring exploits for the Waratahs against the Reds in Sydney on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Waratahs are currently top of the Australian conference and second on the overall log. While they have the same number of log points as the Brumbies (47) they have won one more game (which, as a determining factor, comes before points difference).
Depending on what happens in Saturday's earlier match between the Brumbies and Crusaders in Canberra, the Tahs will go into their final league fixture needing just to win (without scoring four tries) or needing a bonus-point win in order to win the conference and get a home semi-final (they can't afford to lose, even if the Brumbies lose without getting a bonus point, as the Stormers could then leapfrog them by beating the Sharks in Durban).
On current form, the Waratahs, who thrashed the Cheetahs 58-33 in Bloemfontein last weekend, should have no problem in taking the full five log points from the 12th-placed Reds, even if they have just made the long journey back from South Africa.
Key to their attack will be Naiyaravoro, whose try against the Cheetahs took his season tally to eight (only Waisake Naholo, nine, and TJ Perenara, 10, have scored more).
The Fijian winger, who crossed over from rugby league in May 2014, has made more handling errors than he would have liked in 2015, but when he does hold on to the ball he poses a massive threat.
Naiyaravoro is eligible to play for the Wallabies, with coach Michael Cheika having expressed an interest in him, but he has decided to commit to Fiji for the World Cup. He should therefore start against Australia in their pool match in Cardiff on 23 September.
For now, though, the 23-year-old's focus will be firmly on helping the Waratahs to secure a home semi-final and then defend their Vodacom Super Rugby title.
The Tahs have been boosted by the return of lock Will Skelton and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau for Saturday's match, while Chris Kuridrani replaces Chris Feauai-Sautia on the right wing in the only change to the Reds lineup.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Reds 13, Waratahs 10, Draw 1
In Sydney: Reds 6, Waratahs 5
STATS AND FACTS
– The Waratahs have won their last three against the Reds, restricting the Queenslanders to five points or fewer in those three games.
– The Tahs have won 15 of their last 17 games at home (lost two) allowing their opponents a losing bonus point in just three of those games.
– Only the Force have a worse goal-kicking success than the Reds (60%) and the Waratahs (66%).
– The Waratahs have scored the most first-phase tries this season (22), while only the Cheetahs have conceded more than the Reds (22).
– Israel Folau (205), Kurtley Beale (204) and Bernard Foley (170) make up three of the top four ball-carriers in Super Rugby this season; Folau (36) and Beale (30) also rank first and second for offloads.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (164)||Taqele Naiyaravoro (8)||Israel Folau (1,443)||Michael Hooper (164)|
|Reds||James O'Connor (44)||Samu Kerevi, Lachie Turner (6)||James O'Connor (681)||Adam Thomson (146)|
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 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 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Peter Betham.
Reds – 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: (two players to be omitted) 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Jake McIntyre, 24 Ben Tapuai, 25 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images