Waratahs change it up for Sharks

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 06:34
Large michael cheika players

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made six changes and brought in four new faces to his starting line up to face the top-of-the-table Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made six changes and brought in four new faces to his starting line up to face the top-of-the-table Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Jonno Lance will make his Waratahs debut in the light blue number 15 jersey, deputising for the injured Israel Folau.

The only player in the squad to have won a Super Rugby title, Lance came to the Waratahs to play in the midfield but with Cheika refusing to tamper with the growing Bernard Foley - Kurtley Beale 10-12 combination, he gets his chance from fullback.  

That chance comes as the result of Folau being ruled out after taking a knock to the throat, 20 minutes in to Friday's game against the Rebels.  

Although he was able to play on until the 75th minute, Waratahs medical staff held him back from flying out to Africa with the team last Saturday. Although expected to join his teammates when the swelling subsided a few days later, the injury to his cricoid cartilage has not reacted as expected which has forced his travel schedule to be revised.

"I didn't think it would be this bad, there is still swelling in my throat and I will have to see the specialist again this Friday, it's disappointing," said Folau, who has now set his sights on being fit for the game against the Stormers in Cape Town next week.

Lance has a solid kicking game and is strong defensively but has big shoes to fill with Folau, the competition's leading try-scorer and the Waratahs' chief attacking weapon, scoring eight tries in four games this season, just two shy of Peter Hewat's franchise record for a single season and seven adrift of the all-time Super Rugby season record of 15.

In the forwards, Benn Robinson is back at loosehead prop in place of Paddy Ryan, while Wycliff Palu will make his Waratahs century when he runs on at No.8  Both came off the bench against the Rebels last week.

They are not the only changes with Cheika again shuffling the pack. Jacques Potgieter moves from flank to lock, where he lines up alongside Kane Douglas, forcing Will Skelton to the bench.

No.8 last week, skipper Dave Dennis will start at blindside flank, with Michael Hooper retained at openside.

Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley continue in the halves, and Kurtley Beale retains the number 12 jersey. Beale would have been considered the logical replacement for Folau at fullback but, with the Waratahs midfield the success story of the year so far, Cheika is reluctant to change the formula that has launched much of their running game and been the catalyst for three wins from four games.

Adam Ashley-Cooper will continue as Beale's centre partner and Peter Betham won’t be moving off the right wing. His size and power have seen Rob Horne selected to start for the first time this season, in place of the fast feet of left wing Alofa Alofa.

With a game in hand, the Waratahs sit fourth on the overall table, just three points behind the table-topping Sharks. An away win could see them regain pole position but Cheika has warned that the Jake White coached side will be looking for vengeance after last weekend's loss to the Bulls.

"When we lost to the Brumbies we wanted to bite back and they'll want to do the same," said Cheika. "It's up to us not to fold and fight fire with fire. We won't be scared to do it," he added.    

Waratahs: 15 Jonno Lance, 14 Rob Horne, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: TBC

Date: Saturday, March 29
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT; 02.00 Sunday, March 30 EDT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Marius Jonker (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 10 0 5 43
Waratahs 15 8 0 7 40
Rebels 15 7 0 8 31
Reds 15 3 1 11 17
Force 15 2 0 13 13
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 15 11 0 4 53
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 52
Chiefs 15 11 0 4 51
Crusaders 15 11 0 4 50
Blues 15 8 1 6 39
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 1 4 51
Bulls 15 9 1 5 42
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Sunwolves 15 1 1 13 9
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 14 11 0 3 52
Sharks 15 9 1 5 43
Jaguares 14 3 0 11 18
Kings 15 2 0 13 9