They packed down together for the Sydney Stars and now James Hanson and Tolu Latu will come face to face in a crunch debut match on Friday night.
Hanson is set to play his 100th Super Rugby game in the clash with the Waratahs but it’s the battle with his former teammate he’s most looking forward to.
Latu has been the from Australian hooker so far this season, while Hanson had his best game last weekend against the Chiefs, after a delayed start.
The Waratahs hooker replaced Hanson in the Wallabies side late last year, after the Rebel broke his jaw in training.
“I’ve played a few years ago with him at the Stars, when he was playing loosehead I was playing hooker, I get along with him really well,” Hanson said.
“He’s a great player and a great bloke and I think that's’ the beauty of the derby games is you get those matchups against the guys you've been playing against beforehand.
“That’s something that gets you excited those one-on-one battles, they’re across the park all the way through the 15 this weekend.”
Latu’s over-the-ball presence has not been missed by Hanson, an area that he nominated as crucial for this weekend.
“The intensity around the breakdown. They’ve got guys who are good over the ball there - Michael Hooper, those sort of guys that really contest in the breakdown.” James Hanson
“That’s been a strength of ours in the last few weeks but it’s something we’re going to have to improve on,” he said.
“He (Latu) presents another opportunity over the ball like Hooper so we’re going to have to be on our game there.”
Hanson said the Rebels would take more confidence into Friday night after a competitive showing against the Chiefs.
“I think there is a little bit more belief there,” he said.
“In the previous few games, we were in the game for 20-30 minutes. (We were) disappointed in the weekend’s result that we couldn’t finish the job but definitely a lot more belief in that we felt like we had the ascendancy for the large majority of the game.”
The Rebels take on the Waratahs on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.