The Waratahs will be looking to turn around their poor home form when they host the Blues in Sydney on Saturday.
The ‘Tahs have lost three home games in a row. The last time they suffered more home defeats was in 2012 when they lost four in Sydney to round off their campaign.
The Blues have won each of their last three games in Australia, as many as they had won in their 15 visits before that. They haven’t won more in succession in their history.
So the history books and the fact that the Blues seem only lose to their compatriots are pointing to a win for the Auckland-based side.
But the Waratahs showed real fight in the feisty Aussie derby last weekend where they downed the Reds 29-26. They seem to be turning things around after an alarming mid-season slump highlighted by that shock loss to the Kings two weeks ago.
But coach Daryl Gibson is not out of the woods as the side seem to have gone backwards under his tutelage and he would have been the most relieved of them all to have narrowly secured the points last weekend.
And they have Bernard Foley to thank for this. The pivot has carried them through games single-handedly at times as they seem only to be able to score from the tee. Tries are few and far between as proven by Israel Folau’s longest run without one (six games).
The Blues have not exactly been prolific themselves when compared to the other New Zealand sides and certainly don’t strike fear into the hearts of opposition defences as much as they once used to.
Meanwhile, Blues coach Tana Umaga says the clash against the Waratahs will be a major battle.
“We are very evenly matched in stats this year in most parts of the game so we are expecting a very hard encounter,” he said.
“They are a quality side across the park with mobile forwards; they are excellent at the breakdown and have some world-class running backs.
“We’ve constantly said that we need to improve week by week and we will definitely need to step up again.”
Umaga said he was pleased with the effort from the forwards against the Brumbies.
“The front five laid the platform from which the rest of the team were able to prosper. They will need to be at their very best again in all facets of the game,” said Umaga.
The last time the teams met: The Blues survived a late scare from the Waratahs to come away with the points. Tries from Patrick Tuipulotu, Piers Francis, Melani Nanai, George Moala as well as a penalty try proved too much for the men from Sydney, who themselves scored through tries from Israel Folau, Angus Ta’avoa as well as two penalty tries. It was a game which unusually had three penalty tries awarded by referee Mike Fraser.
Team news: Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has made four changes to his side. Tolu Latu, Jake Gordon and Jed Holloway come into the side with Reece Robinson given another opportunity to start on the wing. Taqele Naiyaravoro has been sidelined with a broken hand, but looks likely to be available for selection for the Rebels game.
Blues pivot Piers Francis has been cleared of the wrist injury that ruled him out last weekend’s match against the Brumbies on the day of the game. Francis, who has been selected to play for England in Argentina next month, returns to fly-half with Bryn Gatland to come off the bench. The rest of the side remains unchanged from the line-up that managed a bonus point win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
Form: The Waratahs have lost their last three home games in a row against the Kings, Crusaders and the Brumbies. This season they have beaten the Force, the Rebels and the Reds with away defeats to the Lions, Sharks and Hurricanes.
The Blues have only lost to New Zealand sides this season (Highlanders twice, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Chiefs). Their four wins have come against the Rebels, Force, Bulls and Brumbies.
2016: Blues won 34-28 in Auckland
2015: Waratahs won 23-11 in Sydney
2014: Blues won 21-13 in Auckland
2013: Waratahs won 30-27 in Sydney
2011: Blues won 26-13 in Auckland
2011: Blues won 31-17 in Auckland
2010: Waratahs won 39-32 in Sydney
2009: Waratahs won 27-22 in Sydney
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Irae Simone
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Melani Nanai
Date: Saturday, May 6
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 21:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Will Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)