New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has named an unchanged squad ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby final against seven-time champions Crusaders at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
A 26-8 triumph over Australian conference rivals the Brumbies saw the Waratahs earn the right to host Super Rugby’s showpiece event.
Alofa Alofa, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley all crossed the whitewash as the regular season table-toppers eased into their third final.
However, if they are to claim their maiden Super Rugby crown on Saturday they must overcome familiar opposition.
Both of the Waratahs’ final defeats have come at the hands of the Crusaders – losing 35-25 in 2005 and 20-12 in 2008 – and Cheika understands the threat posed by the Christchurch franchise.
“We’ve got to keep pushing, holding on is not enough,” he told the club’s official website. “We will go out there, play as we have all season and play good attacking footy and give them some trouble.
“The Crusaders are a powerful unit who really focus on their set piece and will be confident after taking apart a strong Sharks outfit.”
Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota Nau also revealed the Sydneysiders will not be leaving anything to chance as they vie to reverse their poor record against the Crusaders.
“I will be taking this game as if it was my last, not worrying about what they are doing will be the key to victory against the Crusaders,” he claimed.
The New Zealand side has taken the honours in the past 11 encounters, with the Tahs’ last win coming back in 2004 in Christchurch but Cheika has faith in the side which has seen them through to Saturday’s finale.
After getting the Waratahs off to a flying start with a third-minute try against the Brumbies Alofa retains his place in a potent back-three alongside Wallaby full-back Israel Folau and winger Rob Horne.
Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will once again take charge of the Waratahs backline while Adam Ashley-Cooper joins midfield partner Kurtley Beale, who will make his 100th Super Rugby appearance on the grand stage.
Hard-hitting Springbok Jacques Potgieter again stands alongside Kane Douglas, who plays his last game for the Tahs, in the second row with Will Skelton raring to make an impact from the bench once again.
Stephen Hoiles joins captain Michael Hooper in the flanks while No 8 Wycliff Palu is set to become the Waratahs’ most capped back-rower with a 90th appearance.
Waratahs: 15 Folau, 14 Alofa, 13 Ashley-Cooper, 12 Beale, 11 Horne, 10 Foley, 9 Phipps; 1 Robinson, 2 Nau, 3 Kepu, 4 Potgieter, 5 Douglas, 6 Hoiles, 7 Hooper (capt), 8 Palu
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16 Latu, 17 Tilse, 18 Ryan, 19 Skelton, 20 Chapman, 21 McCutcheon, 22 McKibbin, 23 Naiyaravoro, 24 Carraro, 25 Betham