The Waratahs are one win away from finishing on top of the ladder. Image courtesy of: theaustralian.com.au
Waratahs v Highlanders
Sunday July 6 – 4:05 PM (AEST)
The Australian Conference is settled. The Waratahs victory over the Brumbies last week has the New South Welshmen finishing first in Australia, and a victory over the Highlanders on Sunday will have them finish first overall. But the Highlanders have more to fight for. A loss here will mean the New Zealanders have a must win match against the Crusaders next Saturday for a spot in the finals.
The Waratahs have dominated the Super Rugby competition this year. Only dropping four games, they are a far cry from the team which finished 9th last year. Israel Falou has been their best player by far. He's been dominant in attack and solid in defence. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time. Add Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne and Alofa Alofa and you have one of the strongest backlines in the game. Benn Robinson is poised to become the most-capped prop in Tahs' history (131) when he starts at No.1. Coach Michael Cheika has been forced to make just one change, with experienced flanker Stephen Hoiles coming in for skipper Dave Dennis, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
The Highlanders are on the verge of tasting finals football for the first time in over a decade. Not since 2002 have the Highlanders finished higher than 7th at the end of the season. But they need to win at least one of their remaining two games to ensure this dream becomes reality. Coach Jamie Joseph is excited about the rest of the season, and why shouldn’t he be. For a team which only won three games last year, the Highlanders are the surprise package of the competition. Joseph has the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up, which was successful 29-25 over last year’s champions, the Chiefs, last Friday.
The Highlanders have so much more to play for. But the Waratahs must guard against complacency with the final just around the corner. It's the Tahs last home game of the regular season, and they'll be looking to send their adoring fans home happy.
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