Preview: Chiefs v Waratahs

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Saturday, May 31, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday, May 31, 2014, 16:35pm (NZT)

Head to head: Played 18, Chiefs 7, Waratahs 11

Last time: Chiefs 20-25 Waratahs (April 19, 2013)

Squad update: While coach Dave Rennie has made eight changes to his starting team, the return of Aaron Cruden and Liam Messam are notable, while other alterations to the match day 23 is clearly an attempt a boost a side that is having some struggles. Their penultimate home match, down in their new territory of Taranaki - will see the two-time title holders chase their sixth win in seven ‘home’ games in 2014.

The Waratahs are a team brimming with confidence, and coach Michael Cheika has kept a winning outfit intact, making no changes to the group that defeated the Rebels 41-19 last weekend. Their form has been rewarded by Wallabies selectors, nearly half of the match day squad will play throughout June for the Australian side.

Form: The Chiefs are keeping in touch barely, they have won two of their last three, but suffered their worst loss in years against the Hurricanes with a 45-8 thumping, and with just six wins they need to knock off a Waratahs team that has won four of the last five in this contest.

The men from New South Wales have usurped the Brumbies and Force as the leading team in the Australian Conference, and are in a good position to reach their first Super Rugby Finals Series since 2011. The fact that the Waratahs haven’t won in New Zealand for four years is a little bit of history the side needs to overcome.

Key Players: Cruden and Messam have been the two constants throughout the champions reign, and their performances will be crucial as the Waratahs will bring threats to New Plymouth throughout their starting XV. Hooker Nathan Harris, pushing for an All Blacks squad berth, will want a big game here.

The Waratahs are no longer a team seemingly reliant on one or two stars, a host of Wallabies show the class throughout the spine of the visitors, and while Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale are the headliners, Bernard Foley has become one of the side’s best players. The muscle of Jacques Potgieter will be needed to grind down a never say die Chiefs pack.

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.

Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Mike Fitzgerald, 20 Tanerau Latimer, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Bundee Aki.

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, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Matt Carraro.