The Waratahs have called on the flinty edges of South African import Jacques Potgieter to prevent a sixth straight loss to the Reds in Sydney this weekend.
Coach Michael Cheika said a ''gut feeling'' prompted him to promote Potgieter in the second row ahead of super-sized youngster Will Skelton for the Waratahs' litmus test against Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
NSW have not beaten Queensland since 2011 but must put up a fight this weekend to be taken seriously as title contenders.
Potgieter's elevation to the starting side after a 37-minute performance against the Force last weekend is the only change to the Waratahs' starting line-up in round three. He will partner Test second-rower Kane Douglas, with Skelton moving to the bench.
''Jacques came on and had a really good impact on the weekend and I'd like Willie to learn how to do the same, play in both situations,'' Cheika said.
''It's [about] the right balance of when to use them and when not to and keep them hungry. [Will] is eager, very hungry to be selected … it's just a bit of a gut feeling. Definitely not a form issue, that's for sure.''
The Waratahs are confident they can upset Queensland after a six-try demolition of the Force on Sunday, but face stiffer competition this week.
The Reds were similarly buoyed by a 27-17 defeat of last year's Super Rugby runners-up the Brumbies and will go into the match with a mental advantage.
Potgieter's Test and Super Rugby experience will lend a steeliness to the NSW pack, a trait Cheika is keen to exploit early in the clash.
''He would have plenty of experience playing against them and probably from a slightly different mindset, not from the [Australia] derby mindset,'' the coach said. ''He's outside that environment. He's played them as a foreign team, he's used to that. We've brought him here to bring that type of experience here to the team, and it would be a bit silly not to use him when those opportunities come.''
NSW captain Dave Dennis is under an injury cloud despite being named to start at No.6. He did not train on Tuesday due to a knee injury and will be monitored throughout the week, Cheika said.
Bernard Foley will reprise his playmaking partnership with Kurtley Beale, who will line up at inside-centre for a second week. Foley said their combination needed more consistency but was in good shape.
''[It was] a bit inconsistent throughout the 80 minutes but [it's] something we can work on, getting that consistency and being potent across the field,'' he said. ''But when we were on song, the backs went quite well and the forwards, their interplay there was really good, so I think we're still building combinations.''
Cheika warned the Reds would bring the ''unexpected'' on Saturday, with a back line boasting Test stars Quade Cooper and Will Genia, plus strike players Ben Tapuai and fullback Aidan Toua.
''They'll bring the unexpected because they've got the experience to do that in the halves,'' Cheika said. ''We've got to strike our balance right between focusing on our game and looking at some of their stuff.''
Waratahs: Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Peter Betham, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (c), Kane Douglas, Jacques Potgieter, Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Rob Horne, Matt Carraro, Pat McCutcheon, Jono Lance.
The story Waratahs coach Michael Cheika picks Jacques Potgieter on 'gut' instinct first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.