Will the Waratahs be the first Australian team to beat a New Zealand team this year?
That is main point of interest for Waratahs’ fans and they won’t care how they do it because it will give them and outsider’s chance of nudging ahead of the Brumbies before the fat lady sings .
In many ways that is a shame because I expect both teams to play an exciting attacking brand of rugby in a cracking game.
The contest against the Highlanders was of high quality, with good skills on display, and I expect more of the same from this one.
Chiefs 46 – Reds 17
Chiefs 24– Crusaders 31
Blues 16 – Chiefs 16
Waratahs 33 – Blues 40
Waratahs 50 – Rebels 23
Highlanders 44 – Waratahs 28
The Waratahs have been playing well, and it is not a coincidence that it coincides (pun intended) with Israel Folau’s good form. They are displaying intensity and a willingness to win the collisions.
Their heads are no longer dropping if they fall behind; instead they are showing a willingness to fight back.
The Chiefs have not been in their best form. They have been ill-disciplined. They have also not been clinical in finishing off the many clean breaks they have been making lately.
However Damian McKenzie and James Lowe are in brilliant form.
Damian McKenzie – in brilliant form
The Tribe will rely on their electric backline to score tries especially from turnovers and broken play. All of them is a quality dangerous attacking player.
Stephen Donald returns to the team to play second-five in his 100th game for the Chiefs, and Toni Pulu replaces Tim Nanai-Williams on the right wing.
To have every chance of beating the Chiefs they must limit the Kiwis’ possession and time with the ball. They must also not let them get involved much in broken play. This means that the Tahs must do the right things when they have the ball, such as targeting their kicks well and not pushing passes.
This is a tall order but it must be done.
They will rely on the forwards dominating collisions and getting over the gain line. They are being more direct recently. They will work their way forward, holding onto possession and look to Bernard Foley and Folau to create tries.
Hopefully Foley will also continue to try to put Taqele Naiyaravoro into more one-on-one situations like he did against Ben Smith.
Nick Phipps has injured his ankle; so Jake Gordon starts – and Jack Dempsey makes his return from injury to play from the bench. He takes the place of Irae Simone which means the bench has a 3:2 split.
Ned Hanigan – worth a watch
Why should I bother?
Don’t miss this one because of the high quality of rugby expected, and also to watch the form of likely 2017 Wallabies’ debutants: Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey.
Will they perform like future Wallabies should?
For Chiefs fans (as if I really care about them, but for journalistic integrity I will try), a good result in this match is vital to their chances of achieving second place in the NZ Conference, thus avoiding traveling to South Africa for a quarter-final.
The locals will also be interested in the performances such stars as Damian McKenzie who are vying for spots against the Lions.
Key match ups
Bernard Foley v Aaron Cruden
Foley is a damaging ball runner and support player and has improved his kicking and passing game.
Cruden is an excellent passer and organiser, as well as being a running threat himself.
The player who organises their backline better and puts players into more gaps will go a long way towards gaining their team a win.
Bernard Foley – his match-up with Aaron Cruden will be telling
Israel Folau v Damian McKenzie
Both are brilliant attacking players of different types. Both are in good form. Both make the most of broken play and are constant threats.
The key difference will be which team has a better defence to handle the threat.
The Chiefs have too much backline speed and skill for the Waratahs’ leaky defence to handle.
I believe the home ground and the inexperienced New Zealand referee, Paul Williams, will combine such that more crucial decisions will go the Chiefs.
Chiefs by 20
1. Kane Hames
2. Nathan Harris
3. Nepo Lauala
4. Dominic Bird
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Mitchell Brown
7. Sam Cane
8. Liam Messam
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
10. Aaron Cruden (c)
11. James Lowe
12. Jonathan Fa’auli
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
14. Tim Nanai-Williams
15. Damian McKenzie
16. Hika Elliot
17. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi
18. Atunaisa Moli
19. Taleni Seu
20. Lachlan Boshier
21. Jonathan Taumateine
22. Solomona Alaimalo
23. Shaun Stevenson
1. Tom Robertson
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. Will Skelton
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Rob Horne
14. Taqele Naiyaravoro
15. Israel Folau
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Angus Ta’avao
19. David McDuling
20. Jed Holloway
21. Jack Dempsey
22. Matt Lucas
23. Bryce Hegarty
Date: Saturday, 3 June 2017
Venue: FMG Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 5:05 pm local, 3:05 pm AEST
Referee: Paul Williams (NZ)
Ricard Kelly (NZ), Mike Lash (NZ)
TMO: Ben Skeen(NZ)
Photos courtesy of Getty Images