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Waratahs

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Tah Man

Tah Man will have the Allianz Stadium sidelines to himself

The Waratahs – Brumbies Super Rugby Semi-Final showdown has been robbed of one of its marquee match-ups, with reports that Brumby Jack has been “banned” from Saturday night’s encounter.

The iconic Brumbies mascot has, according to the Canberra Times, been denied a request to strut his stuff on the field and will instead have to be content with a seat alongside Brumbies supporters in the Allianz Stadium stands.

 

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter during training ahead of the semi final against the Brumbies

Jacques Potgieter will start at lock for the Waratahs in this weekend’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Brumbies but coach Michael Cheika thinks Will Skelton could be a matchwinner from the bench.

Hard-running former Springbok Potgieter has got the nod alongside Kane Douglas in the second row for Saturday’s match at Sydney Football Stadium, which will decide who faces the Canterbury Crusaders or South Africa’s Sharks in the final.

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CrusadersCell C SharksThe Waratahs and Crusaders will be heavily favoured to advance to a Sydney final, but the two Vodacom Super Rugby play-off qualifiers played this weekend did breathe some much needed life into a competition that is sometimes accused of being too predictable.

As expected, the home teams did advance to next week’s round of semifinals, but it was a close run thing in both Canberra and Durban. More than that, the quality of rugby produced, and the entertainment value, was just what the doctor would have ordered if the goal of a medical consultation was to find out what could increase interest for the remaining two weeks.

Of the two winning teams, the Brumbies and the Sharks, it is the former who should go into the semifinals feeling most upbeat. They relaxed when they thought they had the game won and the Chiefs showed their championship qualities one last time before eventually conceding their run of success had come to an end by launching a brave, gutsy and classy fightback.

Once condemned to playing catch-up, the Chiefs produced some of their best rugby in a while, and may well have won had they shown just a bit of temperance in their commitment to attack, for it was their tendency to concede penalties in their own half by trying to play too much rugby there that cost them the game.

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imageMichael Cheika has shrugged off suggestions that Waratahs stars Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale are vulnerable to offers to defect to the NRL (Rugby League) as the Waratahs build towards what looks to be a sold-out Semi-Final in Sydney next weekend.

After a week in which the minor premiers’ biggest names were linked to moves to Rugby League, the Waratahs confirmed late on Thursday that more than half of the 43,500 seats at Allianz Stadium had been sold just a day after tickets went on general sale.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter – enjoying the Sydney experience

I’m sure that everybody who has been following the Waratahs and their progress to ending first on the 2014 Super Rugby log will agree that Jacques Potgieter has played an integral part in their rise.

He has been playing with the same robust “kamikaze” style that first got Heyneke Meyer to lure him to the Bulls, and that gave him his three Springbok caps, but he has refined his game at the same time.

As good as he has been to the Waratahs, the Waratahs have been equally good to him. He has evolved as a rugby player and instead of the Bulls forward blueprint of head down and charge, he has been delivering some deft offloads and touches. He is a much more rounded player, and the frightening part is, all within the space of one season.

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Israel Folau & his agent meets with Todd Greenberg

“Welcome to SPECTRE Mr. Bond, if you’ll just sign here and here”

Speculation is rife in Australian rugby as to whether Israel Folau might be returning to the NRL. Folau and his agent was spotted meeting with the Head of the NRL, Todd Greenberg. In what can almost be described as a plot to a spy thriller, photos were snapped and keyboards frantically clicked to rush the story into print.

At the same time, uncertainty remain about the future of Kurtley Beale, and whether he too might be heading to the NRL.

Do the Waratahs need all this speculation about two of their star players only one week shy of hosting a semi final in this year’s Super Rugby Tournament?

ARU boss Bill Pulver says he is “not dissatisfied” with the departures of several high-profile players this year.

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imageThe Waratahs have been the great under-performers in the history of Super Rugby but with the 2014 minor premiership wrapped up, they’re now just two home wins from a maiden title.

Seemingly always blessed with a talent-rich roster the Tahs, up until this season, have never really delivered on that potential.

The franchise then hit rock bottom in 2011 when crowds hit an all-time low and the club conducted a series of fan forums in an attempt to reconnect with a disenchanted supporter base.

Here’s five reasons why they’re finally flying in Super Rugby.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyLike every fine season of Super Rugby, all is not revealed until the final weekend of the regular season, and the 2014 campaign, and 19th tournament overall of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier provincial competition, will be no different.

However congratulations must be offered to the Waratahs, who offered one piece of clarity over the weekend with their 44-16 win over the Highlanders.

With that, the Waratahs has for the first time qualified as the top-ranked team after the regular season, and become the ninth franchise in history to finish as ‘minor premiers’.

For coach Michael Cheika and his troops, this will be a significant fact even though he was quick to remind all who would listen that the Super Rugby Finals Series would be another step up for a team that looks the goods.

However, as Cheika correctly pointed out, there will be teams with more experience at this stage of the season and this is a crucial factor for potential champions.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

The Super Rugby table topping Waratahs will travel to Suncorp Stadium without their talisman Israel Folau.

The Wallabies try-machine is suffering from a corked thigh and will be replaced by Cam Crawford, who makes his fourth start for the season.

The remainder of the backline is unchanged.

In the pack, Will Skelton has been recalled to the starting lineup at lock ahead of Jacques Potgieter, alongside Kane Douglas, while has held his spot at blindside flanker.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Waratahs and Wallabies back Kurtley Beale says that a decision on where he will play next year is “just around the corner”.

Beale has offers from Europe, Japan and the NRL and comes out of contract with the Australian Rugby Union and New South Wales Rugby at the end of the season.

The Waratahs back is a core member of the team that will finish the Super Rugby in first place on the standings but was a replacement on the bench for the Wallabies in their three-Test series against France.

The ARU has a banding system which could make it difficult for a player on the Wallabies bench to negotiate a big top-up to his Super Rugby contract.

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Phil Waugh

Ex Wallaby and NSW Waratah skipper Phil Waugh

The NSW Waratahs have received the ultimate nod of approval, with the state’s most-capped player declaring Michael Cheika’s record-setting class of 2014 as possibly the most complete team in Super Rugby history.

Boasting 18 internationals and the inside running to a home grand final, former captain Phil Waugh believes only the Crusaders or an injury to attacking trump Israel Folau can stop the Waratahs from winning their maiden title.

”The talent and experience and the potential of the team they’ve got together now in that squad is right up there with one of the best that not just the Waratahs have seen but also probably Super Rugby has seen,” Waugh said.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

The Waratahs used the power of the Australian dollar to kill off any hopes that the Vodacom Bulls may have had of luring utility forward Jacques Potgieter back to South Africa.

Potgieter is currently having a superb season with the Vodacom Super Rugby log leaders and has been one of the reasons Michael Cheika’s side has been doing so well, using his skills to good effect to provide more than just a traditional forward role with the Sydney-based franchise.

The Bulls had opened negotiations with Potgieter to return for next year’s Super Rugby tournament after he left them a year ago, but these were snubbed out by the Waratahs, who made a significant counter offer to keep him in Sydney.

It is understood that Potgieter wanted to return to try and make the squad for the Rugby World Cup after being in the Springbok set-up in 2012.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyThe Cell C Sharks will be the only South African team contesting the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs this year after the Vodacom Bulls slipped up in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon, shortly before the KwaZulu-Natalians’ title hopes were dealt a blow in Bloemfontein.

The team from Durban dropped one position to third on the overall standings after their shock defeat by 27-20 to the Toyota Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium. It was arguably the team from Bloemfontein’s best performance of the season as they moved up from the last spot on the log to 14th.

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers recorded the fourth-ever clean sheet in a local derby when they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 16-0 at DHL Newlands. Just before the June-break, the Capetonians did the same when they beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 33-0 in Cape Town.

It will be only the third time in the last 10 years that the Vodacom Bulls will not feature in the playoffs.

The other two times a South African side failed to score any points in local derbies, were in 1999 when the Cell C Sharks beat the Vodacom Bulls by 29-0, while the team from Pretoria beat the Southern Kings by 34-0 last year.

In total, it was the sixth time ever a South African team were kept point-less in Vodacom Super Rugby and the Vodacom Bulls’ third zero. The Pretorians lost 27-0 to the Crusaders in Timaru in 2011 and the DHL Stormers lost 22-0 to the Crusaders in Cape Town in 2008.

On Friday evening, the Lions recorded their sixth win of the season when they beat the Rebels by 34-17 at Ellis Park, meaning 2014 will go down as the most successful for the team based in Johannesburg since the Cats franchise was dissolved before the 2006-season. Their previous best was five wins in 2007.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs secured top position in Super Rugby’s regular-season as they overpowered the Highlanders 44-16 at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

A second-half onslaught did the damage as fine tries for Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Nick Phipps, Jacques Potgieter and Taqele Naiyaravoro were added to Rob Horne’s score in the opening 40.

They will now go into next week’s trip to the Reds knowing that top spot is assured and Michael Cheika might subsequently choose to rotate a handful of his stars in order to keep them fresh.

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Cell C SharksDo the business in Bloemfontein on Saturday night … then warm up the Sunday morning coffee smartly and become temporary Highlanders enthusiasts for 80 minutes.

Those ought to be key items on the Sharks’ to-do list this weekend as Super Rugby 2014 enters its penultimate round of ordinary-season play.

Director of rugby Jake White will be aware of the potential hazard of putting the cart before the horse, and drum into his charges that victory against the Cheetahs in a domestic derby is very much the main target.

But if they manage that, their attention will undoubtedly turn pretty smartly to a Sunday morning cracker (in SA time-zone terms, at 08:05) between the log-leading Waratahs and New Zealand-based playoffs challengers the Highlanders in Sydney.

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Stephen Hoiles

Stephen Hoiles

WaratahsWaratahs coach Michael Cheika named experienced loose forward Stephen Hoiles in the place of injured flank Dave Dennis for this Sunday’s Super Rugby crunch encounter with the Highlanders.

It is the Waratahs’ final home match of the season and they head into home stretch without their regular captain, Dennis, who was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Michael Hooper takes over the captaincy armband.

After the Waratahs dominated the set piece against the Brumbies, there are no other changes up front.

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WaratahsBrumbiesWestern ForceRedsMelbourne RebelsThe Waratahs are top of the table, three points clear of the Sharks, with guaranteed Super Rugby Finals Series qualification which sees them placed as Australia’s best hope.

The Brumbies and the Force are not out of it yet.

A win to the two-time champions against the Western Australians in Canberra will give them 44-45 points, right on the threshold of what might be the lowest mark to reach the top six.

Meanwhile the Reds and Rebels play for pride.

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Benn Robinson

Benn Robinson

Benn Robinson will make Waratahs history on Saturday night when he runs out against the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium in the crunch match for top spot in the Australian Conference.

Named in the starting XV on Tuesday, Robinson will earn his 130th New South Wales cap and join fellow NSW legend Al Baxter as the state’s second most capped player of all time, behind former captain Phil Waugh (136).

Head coach Michael Cheika has made just one change to the starting side that beat defending champions the Chiefs in their last outing back in Round 16, with Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu starting at tighthead in place of the hard-hitting Paddy Ryan.

Internationals Jacques Potgieter and Kane Douglas will wear the number four and five jerseys respectively, with Wallaby debutant Will Skelton expected to make an impact from the bench.

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Cam Crawford

Cam Crawford

In the wake of acquiring Mike Harris and Jonah Placid, the Rebels’ recruiting drive has secured another key talent with Cam Crawford signing for the next two Super Rugby seasons.

The 25-year-old had to make it to Super Rugby the hard way, with a number of injuries preventing him from making a long-awaited debut until the 2012 season.

Playing for the Brumbies, Crawford featured in one Super Rugby game and also against the touring Welsh.

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ChiefsWaratahsChiefs (3) 17 / 33 (13) Waratahs (Final Score)

The Chiefs and Waratahs did battle in Super Rugby at

Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth at 06:35 SA Time (16:35 NZ Time, 14:35 AEST, 04:35 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, SHD & CSN on TV in SA.

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