21 Jun 2011

Waratahs struck by injury ahead of playoff showdown with Blues

10:09 am on 21 June 2011

The New South Wales Waratahs hopes of upsetting the Blues in Friday's Super rugby elimination final in Auckland have suffered a major blow with front-rowers Al Baxter and Tatafu Polota-Nau joining a long injury list.

The Wallabies hooker Polota-Nau was ruled out with a knee injury, while prop Baxter had suffered a head-knock.

The Waratahs have also lost first five Daniel Halangahu to a hamstring injury for the match at Eden Park, where they have won only once in the southern hemisphere competition.

Coach Chris Hickey suggested utility back Kurtley Beale would move from fullback to first five, while back-up hooker John Ulugia would start in place of Polota-Nau.

The winner of Friday's match should meet the table-topping Queensland Reds in Brisbane in the second week of the playoffs, but if the Sharks beat the Crusaders in their first round playoff clash in Nelson on Saturday night the winner of the Blues, Waratahs clash will travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers.

The Waratahs, who have lost all of their matches outside Australia this season, lost their semi-final away to the Cape Town-based Stormers last year.

The Blues ended a run of four losses against the Highlanders last week and prop John Afoa fired a warning to the visitors, claiming the Auckland based side were yet to hit their straps for a whole game.