Hang on, didn’t this just happen?
While it mightn’t feel like it, we’re somehow already up to week nine of Super Rugby and the Tahs-Rebels clash was waaaay back in week two.
A lot has happened since then, but I don’t think many of us predicted things to pan out quite as they have. The Waratahs are third in the Australian conference and the Rebels are fourth.
The Rebels put in their worst performance of the year against the Brumbies last week and are unlikely to do so again.
Both Cippers and JOC played especially poorly last week, and you get the feeling that JOC could be very dangerous playing with a point to prove.
Tom Carter and Berrick Barnes will have to work extra hard to shut them down when the Rebels have the ball but the Tahs will want to run at Cippers’ channel all day.
We can expect to see Cliffy Palu making metres here, and while the Rebels loosies have been very good all year, Delve, Saffy and Lipman will definitely have their work cut out covering their flyhalf.
The Tahs really need to put the Rebels away with a bonus point if they want to get challenge the Ponies for top spot in the conference
The Tahs were tipped to make a few changes for this game, but have stuck with pretty much the same line-up we’ve seen all year so it will be interesting to see whether Foley rings in the changes early to give his starters a decent rest.
Most interesting is the return of the Rock, who has been named on an eight man Tahs bench. If he’s fit then he should get a good run, but he’ll have to be very impressive if he aims on getting the blindside jumper from Dave Dennis.
He won’t get a free ride from Foley either, who’s shown he’ll bench the big names if he sees fit – just look at Pretorius and McKibbin.
Waratahs: 15. Bernard Foley, 14. Tom Kingston, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Tom Carter, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Brendan McKibbin, 8. Wycliff Palu, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Dave Dennis, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Dean Mumm, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson (c). Res: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Paddy Ryan, 18. Sitaleki Timani, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Jono Jenkins, 21. Sarel Pretorius, 22. Daniel Halangahu, 23. Rocky Elsom
Rebels: 15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Lachlan Mitchell, 13. Lloyd Johansson, 12. James O’Connor, 11. Mark Gerrard, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Gareth Delve (c), 7. Michael Lipman, 6. Jarrod Saffy, 5. Hugh Pyle, 4. Luke Jones, 3. Rodney Blake, 2. Ged Robinson, 1. Nic Henderson. Res: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. Jono Owen, 18. Al Campbell, 19. Tim Davidson, 20. Richard Kingi, 21. Julian Huxley, 22. Cooper Vuna
Date: Saturday 21 April. Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney. Kick-off: 1940 AEST
Saturday’s game is Armed Forces Night, and the Army and Navy XVs are playing a curtain-raiser before the main event.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Francisco Pastrana. TMO: Matt Goddard
Kurtley Beale. In his first game back in Sydney, KB is the man the Tahs defence need to shut down completely. Half a sniff and he’s through for the match-winning try for the Rebels. Given his history at the Tahs, you’d think Michael Foley and his brains trust would have enough knowledge to build a plan good enough to contain him and shut down the space he craves. We know he’s a match winner, the question is will he be one on Saturday?
Rocky Elsom will pull out injured on game day and Lopeti Timani will play a blinder off the bench instead. While JOC and KB will be dangerous, the Rebels won’t have quite enough around the park to pull it off. It should be reasonably tight for the first 60 minutes, but Tahs dominance in the tight should see them pull away.*
*Yes, I know Jonathan Kaplan is refereeing, so in all likelihood none of this will happen.
The Tahs should do it by 10, what are your tips?