Saturday night marks the end of the 2021 Super Rugby AU round robin play. Where the Waratahs host Melbourne Rebels at BankWest Stadium. Both sides came off losses on their own after Round Nine.
Waratahs are out of the finals now after seven straight losses in 2021. But all they can do now is end their tough season on a high. Their last ever win was against the Rebels during Week 9 last year at 32-38.
Rebels on the other hand need two things that can do their way. One is to see Western Force lose. And two would be to beat the Waratahs. So they can head to the Playoff Final for the 2nd straight year.
The away team has the upper hand during Week 5 in Melbourne. Where they beat the Waratahs 33-14. Rebels did win as the home side in Sydney last year 24-10. Due to rising COVID cases there at the time.
Angus Bell & Harry Johnson-Holmes both remain in the props. Alongside Dave Porecki at hooker. With Hugh Sinclair & Max Douglas behind them. Before Lachie Swinton, Carlo Tizzano & Will Harris make up the back row. That remains unchanged from last week v Western Force in Perth.
So does Jake Gordon who skippers at half-back. As well as Ben Donaldson in 1st five-eighth. James Ramm & Alex Newsome on the wings. Lalakai Foketi & Izaia Perese pairs up in the midfield. And Jack Maddocks rounds off their XV.
Joe Cotton replaces Tom Horton as reserve booker. Tetere Faulkner & Darcy Breen in the props. Michael Wood & Jeremy Williams backs up for Sinclair/Douglas. Charlie Gamble at loose forward between 6 & 8. Jack Grant behind Jake Gordon. And Tane Edmed at utility back.
There will be a fresh duo in the props department. Cameron Orr in at loosehead & Cabous Eloff gone to tighthead. James Hanson replaced by Jordan Uelese at hooker. Robert Leota joins Ross Haylett-Petty in the second row. Michael Wells moved from 8 to blindside flanker. With Brad Wilkin at the openside. And Isi Naisarani back into Wells old slot No.8.
Joe Powell & Matt Toomua stays in the 9 & 10 combo. Same goes to two speedsters on the wing. Marika Koroibete on the left & Frank Lomani on the right. As Campbell Magnay & Stacey Ili make up the midfield. Before Tom Pincus rounds off the Rebels starting XV for Saturday night.
James Hanson demoted to the bench behind Uelese. Matt Gibbon & Pone Faamasulli in the props. Steve Cummins as reserve for Leota/Haylett-Petty. Rich Hardwick & Josh Kemeny at loose forward. Carter Gordon & Englishman George Worth makes up the utility backs.
Waratahs have improved in some areas as of late. Thanks to the return of key players. Such as Jake Gordon, Izaia Perese & Angus Bell. It even balanced the youth who need guidance from the experienced. Where they were so good during the 2nd half alone last week. Just need to stay patient & get ahead early from start to finish. If the Tahs can do that then they have a great chance of winning.
Rebels on the other hand are great defensively. Which did influence their positive starts. Like the winning penalties & safe shot penalty kicks. But did not have the best time in the attack. Where the executions did not go well. Thanks to the ill-discipline. And that is one thing they must answer ahead on Saturday. Or else there may miss out the Qualifying Final.
It will be a reinvigorated Tahs v under pressure Rebels. I will go for the Tahs to end their losing drought by 6 points.