PREVIEW: Chiefs v Waratahs

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Friday, June 2, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Round 15: Chiefs v Waratahs, FMG Stadium, Hamilton, 5.05pm, June 3 2017 
The Chiefs go into this game with some mixed form in recent weeks. After wins over the Sunwolves (27-20) and Reds (46-17) they came back from the bye to lose their home game in Suva to the Crusaders (24-31) and then drew with the Blues (16-16) last week. That brought their 11-game winning streak over the Blues to an end. The Waratahs have had less impressive form. They lost to the Highlanders (28-44) last weekend and it will be interesting to see if their preparation in Queenstown this week provides something of a revival in fortunes for them. Earlier, they beat the Rebels (50-23), and the Reds (29-26) but they lost to the Blues (33-40).

Registering his 100th game for the Chiefs completes a significant milestone in Stephen Donald's career. The man whose greatest moment in rugby, kicking the World Cup-winning goal in 2011, was the subject of a television play, has been performing similar feats in his Waikato and Chiefs region for years. It appeared his chance of making the 100 mark to join Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam and Hika Elliot had passed when he opted to play overseas. But since his return he has been welcomed back and played a big role in the side's development. Achieving his milestone against the Waratahs will be a big hit with home fans.

Waratahs first five-eighths Bernard Foley says the troubled Sydney-based combination has been battling in a bid to unleash their known potential beyond the spasmodic demonstrations they have been giving this season. Against the Highlanders last weekend they showed for 40 minutes what they were capable of, but it was the wrong 40. Putting their best play together for the first half only has never been enough, especially against a team like the southerners. The Chiefs offer a different challenge. The last New Zealand team to lose to an Australian side, last year, they have been battling with their own identity through recent rounds and will offer a stern test for the Waratahs. The visitors had time in Queenstown to prepare for the Chiefs but whether it helps them convert 40 good minutes to 80 will determine their fate.


Chiefs: 1.Kane Hames, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Mitchell Brown, 7.Sam Cane (co-captain), 8.Liam Messam, 9.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10.Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 11.James Lowe, 12.Stephen Donald, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Toni Pulu, 15.Damian McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Liam Polwart, 17.Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18.Atu Moli, 19.Taleni Seu, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Jonathan Taumateine, 22.Tim Nanai-Williams, 23.Solomon Alaimalo.

Waratahs: 1.Tom Robertson, 2.Tolu Latu, 3.Sekope Kepu, 4.Dean Mumm, 5.Will Skelton, 6.Ned Hanigan, 7.Michael Hooper (captain), 8.Michael Wells, 9.Jake Gordon, 10.Bernard Foley, 11.Cam Clark, 12.David Horwitz,13.Rob Horne, 14.Taqele Naiyaravoro, 15.Israel Folau.

Substitutes: 16.Damien Fitzpatrick, 17.Paddy Ryan, 18.Angus Taavao, 19.David McDuling, 20.Jed Holloway, 21.Jack Dempsey, 22.Matt Lucas, 23.Bryce Hegarty.