Live updates: Super Rugby Pacific - Chiefs v Waratahs at Melbourne's AAMI Park
Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Super Rugby Pacific clash between the Chiefs and Waratahs at Melbourne's AAMI Park.
After nine weeks of conference match-ups on both sides of the Tasman, the competition now enters a crossover phase, with NZ-based teams taking on their Australian counterparts.
Historically, this rivalry has been rather one-sided, with teams from across the ditch winning just two of 25 fixtures in last year's Super Rugby Trans Tasman. Before that, NZ sides compiled a 40-game winning streak against the Aussies over three seasons, ending when the Waratahs toppled a short-handed Highlanders outfit in May 2018.
So this first match-up of the new format holds particular interest, with the Waratahs and Chiefs sitting fifth and sixth respectively on the competition table, sharing a record of five wins and three losses. The New South Welshman edge ahead by a single bonus point.
The Chiefs were one of the NZ sides to lose last year, falling to the Reds to end their title aspirations, but last time these two sides met, the late Sean Wainui unleashed a record five tries on the Waratahs in a 40-7 romp.
They are coming off a convincing win over Moana Pasifika, but have lost some key personal through the opening stages of the season, with halfback Brad Weber joining All Blacks teammates Brodie Retallick and Anton Lienert-Brown injured on the sidelines for this match.
They will be spearheaded by a dynamic loose forward trio of All Blacks captain Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson and Pita Gus Sowakula, with Cortez Ratima and Bryn Gatland filling the inside-back positions. Cane's match-up with Wallabies counterpart Michael Hooper should set the tone for the contest.
TAB Odds: Chiefs $1.12, Waratahs $5.50
Chiefs: 1-Aidan Ross, 2-Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3-Angus Ta'avao, 4-Josh Lord, 5-Tupou Vaa'i, 6-Luke Jacobson, 7-Sam Cane (c), 8-Pita Gus Sowakula, 9-Cortez Ratima, 10-Bryn Gatland, 11-Quinn Tupaea, 12-Rameka Poihipi, 13-Alex Nankivell, 14-Jonah Lowe, 15-Chase Tiatia
Reserves: 16-Bradley Slater, 17-Ollie Norris, 18-George Dyer, 19-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20-Samipeni Finau, 21-Xavier Roe, 22-Rivez Reihana, 23-Inga Finau
Waratahs: 1-Angus Bell, 2-Dave Porecki, 3-Harry Johnson-Holmes, 4-Jed Holloway, 5-Hugh Sinclair, 6-Charlie Gamble, 7-Michael Hooper, 8-Will Harris, 9-Jake Gordon (c), 10-Tane Edmed, 11-Alex Newsome, 12-Jamie Roberts, 13-Izaia Perese, 14-Mark Nawaqanitawase, 15-Will Harrison
Reserves: 16-Tom Horton, 17-Tetera Faulkner, 18-Archer Holz, 19-Geoff Cridge, 20-Rahboni Warren-Yosayaco, 21-Jack Grant, 22-Ben Donaldson, 23-Dylan Pietsch
Super Rugby players urged to stop criticising referees in post-match comments
NZ Rugby has instructed Super Rugby players not to criticise match officials, after controversial incidents over the past two weeks.
Earlier this month, Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea didn't hold back in his post-match appraisal, after his side was on the receiving end of a controversial call that resulted in defeat against the Crusaders.
Last weekend, Highlanders captain Aaron Smith also vented his frustration over officiating, after a decision to not take action against Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua after a high tackle on Gareth Evans.
Josh Dickson is shown a red card against the Hurricanes. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images
And after they were reduced to 14 men thanks to a red card to Josh Dickson, the Highlanders fell to a one-point defeat, as a contentious call this time went in the Hurricanes' favour.
Neither Savea nor Smith have been reprimanded for their comments towards the officials, but NZ Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum asserts his organisation is taking steps to see criticism of referees go through the correct channels.
"We've had some dialogue with our teams over the last couple of weeks about trends that we're seeing and left it at that really," Lendrum said. "We've raised particular matters around post-match comments with teams this week, obviously, over the last couple of weeks.
"But generally… there's been discussion around cards and so forth. We're in constant dialogue with the teams over that from our high-performance team."
Lendrum has also urged patience and understanding from players towards match officials, since the fast-paced nature of the modern game will inevitably lead to mistakes, even at the highest level.
"Generally, openness and passion for the game that we see from our players is positive," Lendrum said. "We like to see that across all spheres of the game.
"In this case, it's slightly different. Clearly, those comments haven't met the threshold for SANZAAR to pursue conduct charges against them, but respect for referees is a critical value in our game.
"I know what we want to see is feedback around referees and from referees to teams, vice versa, being made through the appropriate channels, and the focus being on outstanding rugby that's being played, rather than anybody's particular views of incidents that might happen in the course of a game, that then lead to comments being made in the heat of the moment.
"We all know it's a very fast-paced and complex game to referee. There will be errors from time to time, that just shouldn't be our focus."