George Smith will play his first Super Rugby game since 2010. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au
Just a couple of years back, George Smith was considered the world’s second best openside flanker behind Richie McCaw. That mantle has now been passed on to David Pocock, and for the first time the pair will play in Brumbies colours together when they take on the Waratahs . Smith will come off the bench but coach Jake White has already flagged that the pair will spend time on the field together, leaving the Brumbies boss with the conundrum of who to shift to blindside flanker. It’s a nice problem for White to have, given the way his team has started the 2013 Super Rugby season.
New South Wales holds an 11-9 advantage over the ACT Brumbies, but that masks the dismal time the Waratahs have had in the nation’s capital over the years. The Sydneysiders have won just twice in Canberra, although that did include a 29-22 victory in 2011. A rejuvenated Brumbies outfit barely raised a sweat in dismissing the ‘Tahs by 17 points at Canberra Stadium last season, and they’ll be looking to keep their 2013 unbeaten record intact on Saturday night.
New South Wales was staring down the barrel of an 0-2 start to the season when they went to the sheds down 16-6 against Melbourne last week, but a barnstorming second half in greasy conditions, which included three tries, has given ‘Tahs fans hope of an improved showing this year under new coach Michael Chieka. High-profile purchase Israel Folau moved to the wing in the second half when classy youngster Brendan Volavola came on at fullback, and that back three combination showed some genuine promise. Volavola, in particular, is screaming out for a starting role after providing plenty of spark off the bench against the Reds and Rebels.
No. 8 Wycliff Palu will miss this weekend’s game with an ankle injury suffered in the five-point win over the Rebels. He’s likely to be replaced by Lopeti Timani, while his brother Sitaleki Timani should return after a corked thigh kept him out of the clash with Melbourne.
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