The ANZ Stadium in Sydney plays host to the Super Rugby Final on Saturday, with the Waratahs taking on the Crusaders. It will be the first time that the two teams have met in 2014 after not being drawn against one another during the regular season. The ‘Tahs have opted for a larger home crowd rather than the comfort of their regular ground the Allianz Stadium. They may be left to rue the decision if things do not go to plan on Saturday.
Some of the biggest names in World Rugby will be on display in Sydney with the likes of Hooper, Beale and Folau lining up for the home side to take on a Crusaders team featuring McCaw, Read and Carter. With the Rugby Championship looming, it will be an opportunity for players to get one over on their rival country.
Waratahs v Crusaders (Saturday 2nd August, 09:40am GMT)
Waratahs XV – Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Stephen Hoiles, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson
Crusaders XV – Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett
Ironically the Waratahs have reached the Super Rugby Final twice, met the Crusaders on both occasions and lost to them by 9 points both times. These matches were played in New Zealand though so the ‘Tahs will be hoping that the home crowd will act as a 16th man and help lead the team to their first Super Rugby crown. The home side possess a back-line that can strike from anywhere so the challenge is with the forwards to give them a base to attack from. The outcome of the Waratahs Semi-final could have been much different if it wasn’t for Christian Lealiifano’s dodgy kicking performance but they will know they cannot give Dan Carter easy opportunities from the tee.
The Crusaders will be looking to end their 5 year drought without a Super Rugby Championship at the weekend and add to the seven that they have won in the past. The mind games have already begun after Kieran Read was left waiting for Michael Hooper after he decided to not show up on time for a photo shoot. Read will be hoping that the only thing Hooper and Co. are still waiting for after the game are Super Rugby winners medals. The home side must still be on a high after not conceding a single point in the second half of their Semi-final against the Brumbies so the Crusaders know that they will have to work hard to break them down both physically and mentally.
LR Prediction: Waratahs 22 – 19 Crusaders
Look out for: Alofa Alofa – The task in hand couldn’t be much harder for the departing winger with Nemani Nadolo lining up opposite him. Nadolo is over 30kg heavier than him so slowing him down, let alone stopping him, is going to be a challenge. In attack though, the speedster should have more luck thanks to his quick feet and ability to glide past tackles.