Super Rugby table toppers the Waratahs, host the ACT Brumbies in an all Australian semi-final clash at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday, knowing a win will guarantee them a home final against either the Sharks to the Crusaders.
The Waratahs topped the regular season standings with 12 wins from 16, seven points clear of their nearest rivals the Crusaders, and after a home 39-8 thrashing over the same opponents barely four-weeks ago, the hosts will start as red hot favourites to advance through to their third Super Rugby final.
Their two previous finals saw them lose to the Crusaders, in Christchurch, on both occasions going down, 25-35 and 12-20, in 2005 and 2008 respectively.
Adding to this, they have been losing semi-finalists on a further three occasions, a feat they won't want to repeat after topping the table in 2014 and effectively securing home advantage for the remainder of the tournament.
Tomorrow will be no time for choking when they take on the double winning Brumbies in what looks to be an open and attacking affair.
For the Sydney based outfit, fullback Israel Folau is unquestionably the one to watch. The rugby league convert has been in scintillating form this season with 12-tries in 16-matches and already boasts 13-tries in just 18-international appearances for the Wallabies.
His positional play has been one of the most impressive improvements to his game, however it is attacking ability from deep that is almost unrivalled in world rugby except for the the brilliant Springbok Willie Le Roux.
The attacking midfield pairing of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale are full of flair and ideas and will provide plenty of space out wide for the superb Alofa Alofa.
Israel Folau is going to be a real threat
The platform for the backs will be laid by their dynamic pack, in particular the power of No.8 Wycliff Palu, the leadership and skill of flank Michael Hooper and the physicality of South African import Jacques Potgieter could prove too much for the Brumbies.
For the Brumbies, what Jesse Mogg lacks in flair he more than makes up for in his positional play and defence, however most of their creative play will be dictated by Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua at 12 and 10 respectively, although the Tooma might find himself receiving a lot of ball on the back foot.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Mitchell Chapman, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbon, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Leon Power, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Ruaidhri Murphy, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe.
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