The Brumbies host the Waratahs on Friday in what promises to be an entertaining Australian derby in Canberra.
These arch rivals have been Australia’s two premier sides in the competition in recent seasons and started with impressive victories last weekend.
The Brumbies were in a rampant mood in their opener, outscoring the Hurricanes seven tries to one in a 52-10 victory in Canberra whilst the Waratahs never needed to find top gear in an easy 30-10 triumph over the Reds.
Both sides have plenty of Wallabies in their ranks which will make this a fascinating duel but there will be extra pressure on the home side as they have been on the losing side in this fixture in the last four encounters, and they have only won two out of their last seven matches against the Waratahs.
The phenomenal win over the Hurricanes was a statement of real power however from the Brumbies upfront, and back-row Jarrad Butler expects another tough challenge this weekend.
“The last couple of years the Waratahs have probably got the better of us,” he said.
“They’re a really good team. We’ve just got to focus on our game and work on some things from last week, continue to play expansive footy and hopefully we can go well.”
Waratahs assistant coach Chris Malone is wary of their opponents after impressive showing in the first round.
“The Brumbies probably had the best win of any team in the first week and, rightly, probably lived up to their favourites tag,” he said.
“So we’ve got plenty to work on, they have plenty of attacking threats and a new brand of football this year so we’re going to have to be good across the park, both defensively and more clinical in our attack.”
The last time these teams met: The Waratahs claimed a hard-fought 21-17 win in a pre-season match in Wagga Wagga. The win was set up by tries from David Horwitz, Bryce Hegarty, Angus Ta’avao. Hegarty (2) and Andrew Deegan also slotted conversions. For the Brumbies, Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Ala’alatoa and Michael Wells scored tries and Matt Toomua added one conversion.
Players to watch: A huge area of interest will be the breakdown battle, always a key facet of matches between these sides and Australia’s two leading openside flankers in action all eyes will be on David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
Both are ball-poaching masters and their duel will be worth the entry fee alone. Both also have extra strings to their bow but the contest at the breakdown should be a riveting one as the player who triumphs in that department also usually ends up on the winning side.
Also worth noting is how the Brumbies opted not to use Pocock at the tail of their mauls last week despite his try-scoring success in that role last season, while Hooper should be found at the tail each time the Waratahs pack get rumbling forward as we saw from his try last week.
Team news: For the Brumbies, Scott Sio returns to the starting side and Blake Enever will make his first appearance of 2016. Enever replaces Rory Arnold at lock in the starting side. Starting on the reserves list is Jarrad Butler, who could rack up his 50th Super Rugby cap in the match against the Waratahs.
Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has named an unchanged starting line-up for this clash. The Sydneysiders’ lock Dean Mumm will play his 100th provincial game, becoming the Waratahs’ highest capped second-row. Tatafu Polota-Nau will become equal-second highest capped Waratah, alongside Phil Waugh on 132 Super Rugby caps, behind the Waratahs’ most-capped, Benn Robinson who has made 145 Super Rugby appearances. Tighthead prop, Angus Ta’avao will play his 50th Super Rugby game, after making 48 appearances with his former Blues team.
Form: Both sides made victorious starts to their campaigns. The Brumbies claimed a 52-10 win over the Hurricanes in Canberra and the Waratahs beat the Reds 30-10 in Sydney.
2015: Waratahs won 13-10 in Canberra
2015: Waratahs won 28-13 in Sydney
2014: Waratahs won 26-8 in Sydney
2014: Waratahs won 39-8 in Sydney
2014: Brumbies won 28-23 in Canberra
2013: Waratahs won 28-22 in Sydney
2013: Brumbies won 35-6 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies 19-15 in Sydney
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Nigel Ah Wong
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Kurtley Beale 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, (c) 6 David Dennis , 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm , 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Matt Sandell, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Jack Dempsey, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 Bryce Hegarty
Date: Friday, 4 March
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, William Houston
TMO: Ian Smith