Super 14 betting: Waratahs could blow top four place
There are only two round-robin weekends to go, and the Waratahs still have plenty work to do, says Andy Morris.
They go into the round lying second, but the Waratahs face the real prospect of slipping out of Super 14's top four by the time the weekend is over.
Just when they need a few breaks, they find themselves without key prop Matt Dunning, who damaged his calf in the loss to the Bulls last weekend.
That defeat in Pretoria last time out could prove to be a huge loss for the Waratahs.
It means the match against the competition's form team, the Stormers, is a must-win contest if they want to secure a home semi-final.
The simple matter is, if the Waratahs win both their remaining games, they will be sitting pretty with a home semi. But can they do it?
There is nothing compelling about the teams' head-to-head record - both have won three of the meetings in Cape Town.
In terms of defence, both sides have conceded 18 tries so far in 2008, while the Waratahs have made the most tackles in the competition with the Stormers second.
But if you were a coach whose team were still in with a shout of the top four at this stage of the season - as Rassie Erasmus is - then what you would want is the chance to knock off a rival at home. Think of the 45,000 who will pack into Newlands on Saturday, and what an effect that could have on the home side.
You would also want the luxury of being able to name an unchanged side, which is exactly what Erasmus has done.
What more incentive could the Stormers need than the chance to leapfrog the Tahs if they win their sixth straight match.
The Stormers coach has done his homework, identifying flyhalf Kurtley Beale, scrumhalf Luke Burgess, wing Lote Tuqiri and fullback Sam Norton-Knight as the dangermen for the Waratahs.
After an indifferent 2007, his team have become renowned for their defence this year and should be able to cope with what the Tahs have.
Erasmus' gameplan will be to grind out a win, and certainly not worry about opening the game up and looking for a bonus point.
Much responsibility is on the shoulders of Stormers flanker Luke Watson, who comes up against Phil Waugh, but Watson showed in out-battling the Brumbies' George Smith last week that he should be up to the task.
The Stormers to win by 16.5 points or less looks to represent value, as does the bet on the total match points being less than 38.5.
Next week's final home game pits the Waratahs against the Reds, which they should win even though it will be the equivalent of a grand final for the Queenslanders.
The Tahs have been perfect at home in 2008, so a win over the Reds should see them squeeze into the top four, though they will then have to take their chances with either a return to South Africa or against the Crusaders.