Super Rugby 2014

Waratahs must keep tabs on Ben Smith to have a chance: Israel Folau

Star insists his NSW side have to contain talented fullback to quell strong Highlanders outfit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2015, 2:35pm

The New South Wales Waratahs will need to keep "level heads" and reduce the influence of All Blacks fullback Ben Smith if they are to prevail over the Otago Highlanders in their crunch Super Rugby match on Sunday, according to Israel Folau.

The Sydney-based Waratahs grabbed top spot and booked their place in the play-offs with victory over the ACT Brumbies over the weekend, but need to beat the New Zealanders in the penultimate round of the regular season to keep on track to grab an all-important final on home soil.

The Highlanders, for their part, lie fourth in the standings and will be desperate to sew up a postseason berth before a daunting assignment away to the Crusaders in the last round.

He’s a great player and one of their danger men and, as a team collectively, we have to really watch out for him
Israel Folau

"It's important that we stay level-headed and go about what we need to do," Wallabies fullback Folau said.

"That's work hard during the week and then go into the game really confident in the game we want to play.

"You can't get too carried away. It was a good win [on Saturday] and we'll enjoy it but, come Monday, we're back to business."

Coming off a forgettable 2013, Jamie Joseph's Highlanders have made a stunning turnaround to be in play-offs contention and Smith has been at the forefront of the revival.

The 28-year-old scored a try and helped set up another in the rousing win over the double defending champion Chiefs in Dunedin on Friday, continuing his hot form from the June internationals against England.

Dual international Folau has also been in ominous form for the Waratahs and leads the competition with 11 tries, making his rivalry with Smith a mouth-watering sub-plot for Sunday's match at Sydney Football Stadium.

"He's a great player and one of their danger men and, as a team collectively, we have to really watch out for him," Folau said.

"But, for me personally, I just have to get into my routine and do my job for the team. You see glimpses and highlights, but I'm more worried about my game and how I can help the team out.

"Certainly Ben Smith is a great player and is going to be one of those players we're going to limit a few of his opportunities."

The twilight match promises to be a high-tempo affair matching top Wallabies backs in Folau, inside centre Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper, against All Blacks' Smith, centre Malakai Fekitoa and scrumhalf Aaron Smith.

"Good luck to both sets of defence on counter-attack on Sunday," Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said.

"With a class player like Ben Smith, I like his attitude and the way he runs the ball back and his work with the back three.

"They're a good team all around, they're an open running team and they'll kill you on the counter-attack as well, so you've got to be very tidy around how you work."