We’ve already seen an absolutely belter played out in round two of Super Rugby AU, but we still have one match to go before the week is done.
The Reds survived a scare, getting the better of the Rebels late. Matt To’omua then had a chance to win the match with a penalty but missed after the siren.
Up next is an interesting clash between the Brumbies and Waratahs at GIO Stadium, Canberra.
The Brumbies got the better of the Force in Perth last week, as they got their title defence off to a strong start. But the Waratahs were bested by the Reds in Brisbane, losing by 34-points.
While both of these teams have a proud history, the Waratahs may struggle to stay in the title race if they lose emphatically in round two. But there’s a few key ins and outs, and some mouth-watering clashes – but here are just three reasons on why the Brumbies vs Waratahs is a must-watch.
Return of Lachlan Swinton
Lachlan Swinton had a breakout season with the Waratahs last year, eventually going on to make his Wallabies debut in the fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane.
But after a strong start to his test career, one error cost him.
Just over five minutes before the half-time break, Swinton was red-carded for a high tackle on Sam Whitelock. It was a sour end to his first taste of international rugby, where he’d shown that he well and truly belonged – making seven of nine tackle attempts, with 43% of them being dominant.
The Wallabies did go on to win the test by two points though, as they claimed final bragging rights over their Trans-Tasman rivals until they clash again.
Speaking with RugbyPass earlier in February, Swinton discussed his hunger to return to the test rugby arena after getting a taste for it last year.
“Like they say, once you get a taste of test footy you really want it and that’s so true. I got a taste of it and there couldn’t be anything I want more than to do it again,” he told RugbyPass.
His suspension from that test saw him miss the final two test matches of 2020 against the Pumas, as well as the opening round of Super Rugby AU last weekend against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
But the Waratahs enforcer is back and no doubt ready to fire in round two, having been named to start at blindside flanker.
After the New South Wales side were outclassed 41-7 by their rivals in round one, the return of the 24-year-old is a much-needed boost.
He’ll line up alongside 21-year-old Carlo Tizzano who was fantastic in a losing side last weekend, making 25 tackles. Jack Dempsey will also start in the backrow.
Expect fireworks when Swinton runs out at GIO Stadium on Saturday. He’s a brutal defender who makes his presence known, and can also bring a fair bit to the attack (watch Jack Maddock’s try in the opening round of Super Rugby AU last year) and around the breakdown.
TRY OF THE WEEK | Super Rugby AU Rd 1
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) July 6, 2020
Five RugbyPass writers ranked the top 10 flankers in Super Rugby at the moment, with Swinton coming in eighth after averaging the lists.
Battle of the 10s
At the start of last year, both the Brumbies and the Waratahs braced for change. It was the dawn of a new era for both sides, with long-term playmakers having left.
For the Brumbies, former captain Christian Lealiifano had moved on, as had Bernard Foley for the Tahs. Waratahs Fullback Kurtley Beale also left, signing with Racing 92 in France before last year’s Super Rugby AU season.
After the success of the Junior Wallabies a year before at the World Championships in Argentina, it was very much time for the wave of up-and-coming talent to steer both sides towards any future successes.
In that Final where they lost a close match to France, Will Harrison (Waratahs) started at 10 while Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) started at 12.
We all know the standard that these two can play at – having cemented themselves as being among the premier fly-halfs in Australian rugby at the moment.
Well the two up-and-coming talents will face off on Saturday night, having both been named to start for their respective sides.
Lolesio was impressive in the win over the Brumbies last week, arguably one of the top performers from the opening round.
But considering the emphatic loss that the Tahs experienced last week, it was hard for Harrison to stand out at a similar level. And it’s not going to get easier for the 21-year-old, with halves partner and captain Jake Gordon ruled out due to injury.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 27, 2021
For both the Brumbies and the Waratahs, the fate of the match will be somewhat determined by the performances of these two pivots.
Already a must-win for the Tahs?
The Brumbies are the most decorated side in Australian Super Rugby, having won three titles including Super Rugby AU last year. After a strong win over the Force in Perth last Friday, it would seem as if they’ll be there or thereabouts come the business end of the competition this year as well.
As for their opponents this week, it may already be do or die.
They were outplayed by a Reds side who never really seemed like losing once they got going. So this week, against all the odds, against the Brumbies in Canberra, the Tahs have a chance to prove themselves against the reigning champions.
A win would see the Waratahs have a one win, one loss record after two matches – this would be the same record as the Brumbies should the result go this way. But on the flip side of that, an 0-2 start to the new season could be tough to come back from.
While there is a Qualifying Final this year, we saw last year how important home ground advantage is.
1-15 – James Slipper, Connal McInerney, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Mack Hansen, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks
Reserves – Lachlan Lonergan, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Tom Cusack, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa
1-15 – Angus Bell, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Sam Caird, Jack Whetton, Lachlan Swinton, Carlo Tizzano, Jack Dempsey, Jack Grant, Will Harrison, James Ramm, Tepai Moeroa, Alex Newsome (c), Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jack Maddocks
Reserves – David Porecki, Tetera Faulkner, Sio Tatola, Jeremy Williams, Hugh Sinclair, Henry Robertson, Tane Edmed, Triston Reilly
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