Bernard Foley will be expected to control the game for the Waratahs against the Rebels in Sydney on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Tahs became the first team to beat the Hurricanes this season when they won 29-24 in Wellington last weekend and it was Foley who made it happen, according to Kurtley Beale. The utility back praised Foley's game management, saying the flyhalf had ensured they played the game in the right part of the field.
Foley may not be the flashiest flyhalf around but he is one of the most reliable. He held his nerve to slot the title-winning penalty against the Crusaders last year, and went on to start 12 Tests for the Wallabies.
The Australian Rugby Union recently recognised his value when it gave him a 'flexible' three-year contract extension that will allow him to play two seasons of Japanese club rugby.
The Waratahs have been inconsistent this year, but another victory against the Rebels on Saturday (they won 38-28 in Melbourne in February), and a Brumbies' loss to the Highlanders on Friday, will see the champions move to the top of the Australian conference.
The Tahs have made four changes for this match, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, lock Mitchell Chapman and flanker Jacques Potgieter coming into the starting lineup, and captain Dave Dennis shifting to No 8.
The Rebels won in Canberra for the first time in five attempts when they shocked the Brumbies 13-8 in the rain last weekend, and will be eager to break a similar duck in Sydney. But with clear skies forecast for Saturday, the visitors will have to play above themselves, and hope the champions have another off day, if they're to make history again.
The Rebels have made two changes, with Dom Shipperley back on the right wing and Caderyn Neville replacing Luke Jones (concussion) in the second row.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 8, Rebels 1, Draw 1
In Sydney: Waratahs 4, Rebels 0
STATS AND FACTS
– This fixture has only failed to produce 40-plus points once and averages 50.
– Eight of the nine contests between these state rivals have produced Waratahs victories and just one losing bonus point for the Rebels.
– However, the Rebels’ last six matches have produced over 40 points on just one occasion and have averaged 36.
– The Rebels have won their last two matches, but have never won three in a row.
– Michael Hooper (100) and Sean McMahon (96) are among the top tacklers this season. They are ranked fourth and fifth respectively behind Warren Whiteley (129), Warwick Tecklenburg (108) and Boom Prinsloo (103).
– The Tahs have scored six tries from possessions that have gone seven-plus phases, a competition joint-high. The Rebels have managed five.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Waratahs||Bernard Foley (85)||Peter Betham (4)||Israel Folau (808)||Michael Hooper (98)|
|Rebels||Mike Harris (83)||Lopeti Timani (3)||Mike Harris (487)||Sean McMahon (96)|
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Mitchel Chapman, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu-Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Jordy Reid, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images