Preview: Waratahs v Stormers
The Waratahs head into Saturday's clash with the Stormers mindful of the fact that a run of victories is required to keep them in the hunt for a play-off spot.
Michael Cheika's side have endured something of a frustrating season thus far, with inconsistency - they have never won more than two matches in a row - stymieing their charge.
This inconstancy was to an extent encapsulated in their recent tour to South Africa. Coming off a strong win against the Chiefs, they let matters slip in Pretoria when they had a good shot at beating the Bulls and then recovered in fantastic fashion to put eleven tries past the Kings. Now back in Sydney they will be looking to stay on the winning track when they face a third South African team in the Stormers.
The Stormers too have struggled with inconsistency. Like the Waratahs they haven't won more than two games on the trot and have lost many games they'll feel they should have won.
Cheika has retained faith in the players that did the business against the Kings and the 'Tahs are boosted by the return of playmaker Berrick Barnes and winger Drew Mitchell to the bench, with the duo having recovered from injury.
The inclusion of the 203cm and 135kg lock Will Skelton on the bench stands out as a sign that the Waratahs view the line-out as a key contest area, with reinforcements - very large reinforcements at that - ready to enter the fray should matters go awry.
The Stormers' rolling maul has been an effective weapon once more this season, and the Waratahs will need to be both wary of kicking for touch too often and take a safety first approach on their own ball. On this score the loss of De Kock Steenkamp to injury is a blow for the visitors. He has been an unsung hero for the Stormers, but his absence comes at a time when Eben Etzebeth returns to the fray, with the Springbok sure to add even more power to the pack.
One area where the Stormers are certainly out-sized by their opponents in the back division. Winger Peter Betham is the shortest member of the Wartahs back three, measuring up at 1.91m (6 ft 3 in). For the Stormers, Bryan Habana is as tall as they come at the back, at a rather less impressive 1.80m (5 ft 11 in). There is no doubting that Habana, Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen are a slippery trio, but the 'Tahs are likely to kick their fair share of up and unders and look to get their big men up and competing for the ball.
Head to head: Israel Folau has captured many a headline during his debut season and for good reason too. The full-back has made a massive impact from the back and will be looking to do so again this week. He’ll have to get passed Joe Pietersen to do so and the Stormers full-back – who has put up some indifferent displays – will need to be at his best.
Prediction: Despite the Waratahs' trying-scoring exploits last week, this encounter is likely to be a much tighter affair which could favour the visitors. This one could go either way but the hosts should just have enough. Waratahs by 1-5 points
Put your money where your mouth is and make your predictions here!
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (capt), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Berrick Barnes, 23 Drew Mitchell.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Date: Saturday, May 11
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.40 (10:40 BST, 09.40 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock