After last week’s capitulation to the Cheetahs, the NSW Waratahs find themselves needing a win when they host the Blues in a Sunday afternoon blockbuster. We’ll have live scores and commentary from 4.00pm AEDT.
The Blues are coming to Sydney off the bye that was needed to recover from a bad loss at home to the Bulls in round four.
For their side to improve they need to increase their level of physicality at the breakdown area and in contact.
Against the Bulls they were easily beaten in both of those areas, and as a consequence weren’t able to put their best foot forward.
One player to keep an eye on for the Blues is Rene Ranger. He has been a powerful ball runner as always this year as his 104 metres from six carries against the Bulls shows.
Where he’s really stepped it up in 2013 is his ability to pilfer in the rucks.
He has the nose for the ball and has been so hard to remove from the ruck that he must be eyed a little bit sideways by other outside backs being shown up when the ball is spread away from the packs.
If the opposition are the slightest bit isolated in the backs Ranger is there to capitalise.
The Blues started the year with two strong wins against the Hurricanes and Crusaders, and both of those matches featured them running the ball with vigour and generally putting it all on the line with every carry forward.
Charles Piutau was fearless and electric bringing the ball back from kicks and that kick-started the entire team’s attack.
Look for them to capitalise on any ill-advised Waratahs kicking. As Brett McKay mentioned during the week, the Waratahs kicking isn’t long either and there is plenty of room for the Blues’ back three to counter.
For the Waratahs the Sunday afternoon game will hopefully provide them the opportunity to play in front of a larger home crowd than has been present so far this year.
They’ll need to show their fitness can stand the full 80 minutes at high speed this week.
The Cheetahs last week were able to sneak home as winners because the Waratahs got tired and dropped the ball in some crucial places.
The Blues will also be playing the game at a fast pace.
For Michael Cheika this is a chance to see where his forwards are in terms of competition aspirations.
For them to beat the Blues they’ll need to bully their forwards and mimic some of the mauling and pick-and-drive aspects of the Bulls’ play to wear down the young Blues side.
If they can do that the likes of Paddy Ryan and Michael Hooper should find some room to stretch their legs around the fringes of the ruck.
Another area to watch for the Waratahs is the deployment of Israel Folau. The weakness some of the Blues backs showed under the high ball presents the perfect opportunity to specifically use Folau’s catching abilities to send him after a few well timed cross field kicks or bombs.
We will be bringing you all the action here on The Roar through live blogs, scoring and all the banter you can handle. Don’t forget to log on at 4.00pm AEDT to join in.