BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Welcome to Bris-Vegas! We are here to meet up with our Australian reporter Bruce Bogan who, as usual, is late. You would think with all that weight loss, he would have moved quicker; we think he just became lazier… Anyway, while we wait for Brucey, here’s our Super 15 Rugby So Far: Australian Conference.
The Aussie Conference is, unfortunately, the weakest of the 3 conferences. It won’t be for long, though, as Australia continue to build greater depth…
Granted, these predictions would have been a lot more useful a few weeks ago but the season is still young and regardless of what their records are now, I am confident that come the end of the season, my predictions will be proven correct! Also, let’s remember that the Super 15 will not only have to deal with the British & Irish Lions tour but also break for The Rugby Championship.
Now, without further ado…
1. ACT Brumbies: They just missed out on the playoffs last season with a loss to the Blues. Jake White’s quality as a coach has been confirmed. In two years he has transformed this side into serious contenders for the 2013 conference title. As a result of this success they have acquired Australian captain David Pocock to go along with the likes of Pat McCabe and Christian Lealiifano, who was in line to be a Wallaby until an injury struck him down. Now with a fully fit and healthy squad, they are ready to be the real deal and take their place at the top. Something they haven’t done since a guy named George Gregan was the scrum-half.
2. Queensland Reds: Best attacking team in Australia. Quade Cooper‘s status clouds things but he always plays well for Queensland. However, they still maintain an exciting back-line featuring Will Genia, Ben Tapuai and Digby Ioane. Liam Gill and Beau Robinson lead a forward pack that is as mobile as ever. Head Coach Richard Graham’s high-tempo, expansive style of play is mandated by Director of Rugby Ewen “Link” McKenzie (uncanny for a prop turned Coach or DoR).
3. NSW Waratahs: New coach Michael Cheika adds structure and direction. NSW has always had great talent but have underachieved for the past few years . They can call on the likes of Captain/prop Benn Robinson, along with Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper. They have also added rugby league/Afl convert Israel Folau to their ranks. The main problem is that revamping a franchise and building a dynasty takes time. As a result, this will not be the year for the Waratahs, however watch out for them in 2014.
4. Melbourne Rebels: They are getting there, in terms of being relevant and competitive. Welshman Gareth Delve is back to captain this emerging side. I always thought that Delve would go back to Europe but apparently management and player like the relationship. He will be supported by rising talent Cadeyrn Neville and new Wallaby signee Scott Higginbotham (who should be in James Bond movie). The two provide grunt and mobility to a forward pack that had been sorely lacking it . The back-line is still bursting with talent, with the likes of Wallabies Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor. Now they have better forwards, they may even pip the Waratahs to 3rd.
5. Western Force: This team was struggling last season. Now they have to deal with the double blow of David Pocock leaving for the Brumbies and Nathan Sharpe retiring. Captain Matt Hodgson is currently injured indefinitely. They have recruited Alby Mathewson and Sias Ebersohn from New Zealand and South Africa, respectively. Both are good players but aren’t franchise guys and weren’t wanted at their previous clubs. Realistically, they will be lucky to reach 4 wins. They can count on RWU favorite, Hooker Nathan Charles, doing his part in every game.
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