Wellington, New Zealand. The New South Wales Waratahs will meet the Waikato Chiefs on Friday in the seventh round of rugby’s Super 15, the first match for the team after it re-signed several key players this week.
Wallabies backrower Wycliff Palu and lock Dean Mumm committed to the Sydney-based club on Wednesday, joining fellow Australia teammates Tatafu Polota-Nau, Lachie Turner, Berrick Barnes and Drew Mitchell.
The Waratahs also announced the signing of Australian utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper from the Australian Capital Territory Brumbies this week.
Re-signing current players this early in the season could give the Waratahs stability and help them avoid distractions as they try to work their way up from the middle of the overall standings.
“Seeing everyone else re-sign I got the feeling that we’ve got something special here,” Palu said. “This Waratahs squad has been together for a while now, the feeling for me is we’re pretty close to where we want to be.”
The Waratahs’ last-gasp win over the ACT Brumbies last weekend gave them three wins in five games and lifted them to second place behind the Queensland Reds in the Australian conference and to sixth place in the overall standings.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are in last place in the New Zealand conference.
The seventh round of the 15-round regular season also features a number of matches between teams close to each other on the championship table, promising a reshuffle of the standings as the tournament nears midseason.
Among those matches are the eighth-place Otago Highlanders against the 10th-place ACT Brumbies, the ninth-place Wellington Hurricanes facing the seventh-place Bulls, and the fourth-place Sharks versus the first-place Stormers.
Stormers coach Alister Coetzee has named Springboks flanker Schalk Burger to the starting lineup for his team’s game against the Sharks. The Stormers will be trying to extend their unbeaten start to the season to six games.
Burger, who is returning from a knee injury, will take over the captaincy from Jean de Villiers, who will be joined in the midfield by fellow international Jaque Fourie.
“He’s been on the training field after his injury for quite a while and we have no doubt that he’ll be up for the match,” Coetzee said.
The Sharks are returning home from London, where they played the Canterbury Crusaders last weekend in the first Super 15 rugby match to be played in the Northern Hemisphere.
They’re already without flyhalf Patrick Lambie for three weeks due to injury, and now, his replacement, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, could also be out for the game against the Stormers with a calf injury.
“Jacques-Louis is having a scan and we’re hoping he has a better than average chance of making it this week,” coach John Plumtree said.