THE Steamers head to Wagga today for the last round of the home and away season defending their unbeaten record and expecting to face a major challenge.
A win would give Wagga Waratahs a mathematical chance of finishing the competition in second spot, keeping 15 players on the field a chance of mixing it with the ladder leaders.
A 14-man Tahs were walloped in the first round encounter by the Steamers at Murrayfield.
But coach Dave Stuart said a red card issued after a tryline punch-up robbed the contest of any real value.
“If they can keep 15 on the park it will be a very different story, they went down to 14 pretty early so it was difficult to assess what might happen up there on Saturday,” he said.
“They have won more premierships than any other club in the zone and I’m a bit wary having to travel up there to Wagga as well.
“We know they will be stronger — their halfback Sam Hobbs was their best player last year and he is back on Saturday having missed the game down here, too.
“I’m expecting a real test.”
The Steamers will be without flyhalf Richard Manion and Liam Krautz.
Versatile back Blake Le Cornu will slot into flyhalf, and Mick Alexander and Justin Wheatley are reunited in the centres for the first time in almost a month.
Stuart says the replacements have a chance to impress and stake their claim for the business end of the season.
“We have plenty of guys pushing for selection from the twos as well — Dan Hogg and Louie Levett have been outstanding down there in recent matches and are hard to ignore in the long run,” he said.
Seconds coach Troy Tatchell said they need to win to guarantee a spot in the semi-finals.
“We’re coming good at the right end of the season — some of the boys from firsts returning from injury through the reserves have helped as well,” he said.
“But it is very simple for us — we need to win.”