Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett will pose the biggest threat to the Waratahs on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Barrett was a star performer for the All Blacks during their recent Test series against Wales. He made a big impact off the bench in the first two Tests and then as the starting No 10 in the third, scoring 26 points (including two tries) in New Zealand's 46-6 win.
While Barrett only has a goal-kicking success rate of 67% in this year's Super Rugby tournament, he has been in top form with ball in hand, scoring five tries and assisting with another six. He's also kicked well out of hand, doing so more than any other player this season (125).
The 25-year-old will again be expected to run the show for the Canes on Saturday and his battle with Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley could decide the outcome of this clash.
Both of these sides won last weekend, with the Hurricanes fighting back from 24-17 down at half-time to beat the Blues 37-27 in Wellington and the Waratahs scoring nine tries to smash the Sunwolves 57-12 in Tokyo.
The Canes are currently third in the ultra-competitive New Zealand conference – a point behind the Crusaders and two behind the Chiefs, and a point ahead of the Highlanders – and fourth in the Australasian group.
The Tahs are second in the Australian conference – they have the same number of log points as the Brumbies but one less victory – and sixth in the Australasian group.
To finish among the five teams in the group to progress to the quarter-finals, the Tahs will have to win the Australian conference. However, they have the tougher schedule over the next two weeks with matches against the Hurricanes (home) and Blues (away), while the Brumbies face the Blues (away) and Force (home). Neither team can afford another loss and try-scoring bonus points could also prove vital.
However, the Tahs won't be thinking too much about scoring three more tries than the Canes on Saturday – any win will do, especially if the Brumbies slip up in Auckland, or win but don't get the try-scoring bonus point.
The Canes also just need a win to book their place in the quarter-finals and keep their chances of winning the New Zealand conference alive, although a bonus point would help a lot in achieving the latter.
The Waratahs have made five changes to their starting XV for Saturday's match. Wycliff Palu is back at No 8, with David Dennis moving to the second row and Dean Mumm from lock to blindside flank. Among the backs, Matt Carraro will start on the left wing with Taqele Naiyaravoro shifting to the right in place of Reece Robinson.
In two changes to the Hurricanes lineup, tighthead prop Chris Eves and midfielder Willis Halaholo replace injured duo Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and Vince Aso respectively.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 10, Hurricanes 10
In Sydney: Waratahs 7, Hurricanes 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The Waratahs have won six of the last eight meetings between these two sides, this after winning just four of the first 12 (lost eight).
– The Waratahs have won their last three home games by margins of 15 points or more, this after losing three on the bounce in Sydney before that.
– The Tahs have won seven of their last eight regular-season home games against sides from New Zealand, the last four wins in that run all coming by 10-plus point margins.
– The Tahs have scored 20 tries from possession originating within their own half, the second most of any team and more than any other Australian team. They’ve also conceded the fewest (three) from the same distance.
– Beauden Barrett has made 126 kicks in general play so far this season, more than any other player and 26 more than Waratahs’ best Bernard Foley (100).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (105)||Israel Folau (9)||Israel Folau (1,074)||Michael Hooper (136)|
|Hurricanes||Beauden Barrett (151)||Julian Savea (5)||Julian Savea (622)||Ardie Savea (141)|
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Reece Robinson.
Hurricanes – 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Chris Eves, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes.
Subs: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images