SupeRugby 2019 AUS Conference Preview

And now, last, but… what about the Australian SupeRugby Conference? Here’s Utnapistm with his predictions of how the four Oz (and one Japanese) teams will fare.

Super Rugby 2019 Australian Conference Preview

How it Works

The Log Index: How low can they go high can they climb?

Super Rugby 2019 is a remarkably simple format – 15 teams, divided into four conferences. Each team plays the other four in their conference (home and away) plus an additional four matches against teams from each of the other conferences.

The three conference winners will each qualify for the play offs automatically and be awarded a home QF. A further five teams qualify as “wildcards” with the best of them getting the last home QF spot. Wildcard places are given to the five teams, other than the conference winners, who finish highest on the overall league or log position (regardless of conference).

It is fair to say that, in recent times, the Australian teams have not had a great deal of success in SuperRugby, with the Kiwi teams in particular (even the Blues) proving troublesome opponents. Last season saw some improved performances, but can they keep it going or will they remain the Welsh regions of the South?.

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Phil “Kearnsey” Kearns and…

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…Nick “Honey Badger” Cummings will be joining us to give their expert insights.

Queensland Reds

Best performance: Champions (2011, 1995, 1994)
Last season: 4th in Australian Conference, 13th on the log
Coach: Brad Thorne
Captain: Samu Kerevi
Notable joiners: Sefa Naivalu, Matt McGahan, Bryce Hegarty
Notable leavers: Izaia Perese, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas, James Slipper, Kane Douglas, Andrew Ready, George Smith
Nickname: The Stern Koalas
Mascot: A Stern Koala
Out-of-conference fixtures: Highlanders (A), Crusaders (H), Stormers (H), Bulls (A), Sharks (A), Chiefs (A), Jaguares (H), Blues (H)

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Less talk and more pushing, mate

It has been a rough few years for the Reds. A lack of squad quality, some off-field issues and not much coherence on the field. Brad Thorne took a back to basics approach last year and, whilst the team struggled against the big boys, they were well-drilled and played with heart.

This year sees a big-name powerful pack, and some very talented backs (though the loss of next big thing Perese to league is a big setback) but, as with all Aussie teams, there are questions over the halves, 10 in particular. McGahan, a kiwi from the Japanese league and Hamish Stewart will share the 10 jersey, with the steady Tate McDermott and new boy Sorovi in 9. Let’s see what they offer.

Log Index: Near the roots

Defence was poor last year, despite commitment, and the back row need to step up with no more George Smith to patch the gaps. That said, Thorne is making all the right moves, and the squad looks young, hungry and with the right attitude. A tough fixture list means they are unlikely to improve much log-wise, but at least they should be more competitive.

Key players: Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Samu Kerevi, Scott Higginbotham
Ones to watch: exciting 9 Moses Sorovi, classy 13 Jordan Petaia
Prospects: 3rd in the Aussie conference, lower third of the log
Kearnsy says: All the time, referee!
‘Badge says: As tough as woodpecker’s lips!

NSW Waratahs

Best performance: Champions (2014)
Last season: Won Australian Conference, Lost in SF to Lions
Coach: Darryl Gibson
Captain: Michael Hooper
Notable joiners: Adam Ashley-Cooper, LeRoux Roets, Karmichael Hunt
Notable leavers: Paddy Ryan, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway
Nickname: The ‘Tah-Rexes
Mascot: A red flower and/or Tah-Man
Out-of-conference fixtures: Hurricanes (H), Crusaders (H), Blues (A), Sharks (H), Bulls (A), Lions (A) Jaguares (H); Highlanders (A)

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This one’s for you, big guy

The flag–bearers of Australian rugby again look the best equipped to challenge for honors. A relatively settled squad, with no notable weaknesses personnel-wise in any area. The squad is chock full of Wallabies. As with all Aussie teams, there are questions over 9 and 10, but the ‘Tahs do have the current Wallaby 10 and the promising Jake Gordon at 9. Kicking is going to have to improve, as is defense, but the key to the ‘Tahs going one better than last year is consistency. The set piece will go well and there are weapons galore in the backs, but they need to play with drive and desire (and play as a team) to make the most of their array of talent.

Log Index: Too good for the log, or at worst, in the upper branches

Get it mentally right and the game plan properly embedded, and they will be a force to be reckoned with. The window for Gibson, and many star players, may be closing soon, so this year or a re-think (no pressure).

Key players: Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey, Kurtley Beale, Sekope Kepu
Ones to watch: new lock Roets is a behemoth on whom tight-five dominance may depend; “Special-K” and AAC return with a lot of question marks next to their names (not exactly up and coming, I know)
Prospects: 1st in the Aussie conference, a home QF and maybe more. Top end of the log
Kearnsy says: Let it go, ref!
‘Badge says: The boys are on it like seagulls at a tip!”

ACT Brumbies

Best performance: Champions (2001, 2004)
Last season: 3rd in Australian Conference, 10th on the log
Coach: Dan McKellar
Captain: Christian Lealiifano
Notable joiners: James Slipper, Pete Samu
Notable leavers: Isa Naisarani, Ben Alexander, Kyle Godwin
Nickname: The Brumble-bees
Mascot: Rod Kafer
Out-of-conference fixtures: Chiefs (H), Hurricanes (A), Crusaders (A), Lions (H), Stormers (A), Jaguares (A), Blues (H), Bulls (H)

Australia’s most successful outfit historically are in the doldrums. Poor crowds, mediocre performances and an inability to hold on to big players. On the plus side, they will be tough, committed and no-one will fancy a trip to Canberra. That said, the quality of the days of Gregan, Larkham, Roff, Finegan et al isn’t there. Pocock can’t do it all himself.

Log Index: Amongst the burrowing creatures at the bottom

As with the other Aussie teams, there are big questions over 9 & 10, with big hopes over Lealiifano’s experience and also for Powell to step-up. Elsewhere, the front 5 looks a bit light on quality and the back 3 inexperienced. Generally a forward oriented team, so the latter shouldn’t matter. The former will. Defence will be solid but they don’t have the attack to trouble the best

Key players: David Pockock, Tevita Kuridrani, Scott Sio
Ones to watch: Tom Banks. Many would like to see him in the Green and Gold
Prospects: 4th in the Aussie conference. Lower end of the log
Kearnsy says: I love a good scrum, me.
‘Badge says: Up the guts then get it wide. Meat off the bone.

Melbourne Rebels

Best performance: 9th (2018)
Last season: 2nd in Australian Conference, 9th on the log
Coach: Dave Wessels
Captain: Dane Haylett-Petty
Notable joiners: QUADE COOPER, Matt Toomua, Isa Naisarani,
Notable leavers: Amanaki Mafi, Geoff Parling, Laurie Weeks, Colby Fainga’a, Sefa Naivalu, Lopeti Timani
Nickname: Harold Bishop’s Spicy Spuds
Mascot: Johnny Reb
Out-of-conference fixtures: Highlanders (H), Lions (A), Sharks (A), Stormers (H), Hurricanes (A), Bulls (H), Crusaders (A), Chiefs (H)

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Reunite the band

A star-studded roster on paper, and a highly rated coach. Can they bring it all together and make the finals for the first time? As with the other Aussie teams, there are big questions over 9 and 10, they’ve signed Quade, and he links with old-time partner Genia.

The front row is a potential weakness, but its SuperRugby, so that probably won’t matter. Defense will need a lot of work, and fitting the backline into a coherent ensemble won’t happen overnight. Toomua recently started at 10 for the Wallabies, but will surely play 12? So what happens to Hodge?

Log Index: Near enough the top to see the QFs

Dave Wessels is a highly rated coach though, and the artillery is there. High hopes for this year. Last year was their best ever season, and the meld of Force grit and Melbourne razzle-dazzle looks like it just might work.

Key players: Quade Cooper, Adam Coleman, Will Genia, Isa Naisarani, Jordan Uelese, Dane Haylett-Perry
Ones to watch: Cambell Magnay, Angus Cottrell
Prospects: 2nd in the Aussie conference. Top third of log, sneaking a wildcard slot
Kearnsy says: Fiddle-a-dee, fiddle-a-dee, potato
‘Badge says: Last year, all sizzle and no steak. This year they’ll be off like a bride’s nightie

Sunwolves

Best performance: 17th (2017*) *18 team comp
Last season: 5th in Australian Conference, last place on the log
Coach: Tony Brown
Captain: Yutaka Nagare
Notable joiners: Rene Ranger, Dan Pryor, Phil Burleigh, Jamie Booth, Sean McMahon (injured for the season)
Notable leavers: Nil
Nickname: The Singapore Slings
Mascot: A Sun-Wolf
Out-of-conference fixtures: Sharks (H), Chiefs (A), Blues (A), Lions (H), Hurricanes (H), Highlanders (H), Stormers (A), Jaguares (H)

The rugby compass points east this year. The Sunwolves have spent heavily, on a lot of (mainly Kiwi) imports to bolster their lineup as they join the Aussie conference.

A lot will depend upon how the experienced Tony Brown combines the parts into a team, but they will certainly play with plenty of verve. If they can get some ball, the pace and handling of backs and forwards alike will cause problems. Their Achilles heels have been defense and set-piece and, indeed, the front 5 looks a bit meh. Signs are that the team will improve and, though they won’t trouble many teams, they will be much better than in years past.

Log Index: Earth bound

That said, the question marks are still there over the inclusion of the Japan-based team and the results this season are unlikely to answer many of them. A relatively benign draw notwithstanding, there aren’t many wins likely

Key players: Michael Leitch, Lomano Lemeki, Hendrick Tui, Hayden Parker,
Ones to watch: Captain Yutaka Nagare hasn’t had much game time at 9. Let’s see what he’s got!
Prospects: 5th in the Aussie conference. Lower end of the log
Kearnsy says: Offside, ref!
‘Badge says: They’re going to go off like a bag of cats

Many thanks to Utnapistm for the excellent ligneous logging of the Aussie Conference.


1,344 Comments On “SupeRugby 2019 AUS Conference Preview”

  1. @Chekhovian>

    It’ll also be my first trip in business class, so I have no standard of comparison.

    That’s different, I assume. In economy it is not really different from any other plane.

  2. @tompirracas>

    That idiot is indeed an idiot. As good as the Bulls appeared to be on the weekend, the Stormers were beyond dire, so it’s difficult to know how good/average the Bulls were. Apart from twinkle-toes Specman, I thought Lood de Jager was looking again and Duane appeared to want to prove a point to his former employers. Let’s see how they go this weekend against the Jaguares.

    Interesting two matches – was the Lions win any good (we’ll see how the Bulls do in Argentina this week) and can the Stormers be as abject two weeks in a row (we’ll see when the Lions head to Cape Town) .

  3. A quick bit of digging on that list pro posted shows that it’s really complicated and there’s lots of comparing apples to oranges.

    Honda, for instance (I can’t find the fucking article, it was on Jalopnik) have dropped a massive one and are hideously overextended. They’re also right inna shit as the global market for Hondas is declining. Not to mention that the automotive industry as a whole is inna pooper.

    Apparently, they’ve ended production of their really high end car, and have put off the release of a few new models.

    So, basically, not Brexit- albeit Brexit isn’t helping and they’re unlikely to come back. Which is purely brexit.

    Then there’s Sony.

    Sony are explicitly moving their HQ, although a lot of Sony stuff is staying in the UK, from London to Amsterdam because they have to be in the EU to keep access to the single market.

    Purely Brexit.

    Complicated.

  4. I will never fly business class in my life.

    My company strictly prohibits anything other than the very cheapest available travel tickets for all trips.

    Them finance type companies must be utterly rolling in it to be able to check money around like that.

  5. @Deebee.

    TomP is right. I didn’t put it well, and he explained accurately what happened. Labour made a manifesto promise to call a referendum on Lisbon Treaty (I think), then reneged on it.

    They were taken to court, and their defence was that manifestos aren’t binding.

    Which I actually tend to agree with, because pragmatism.

  6. @Dova>

    I’ve flown Business Class.

    Once cos the flight was delayed (SAA) and I got a free upgrade to Joburg. This was way back inna day. Total waste of an upgrade as I spent most of the flight sitting inna galley and smoking with the stewardesses.

  7. @Dova>

    My company strictly prohibits anything other than the very cheapest available travel tickets for all trips.

    Mine too with the weird caveat that you have to buy from the airlines directly or from a specific travel agency, which is normally more expensive than using an aggregator site.

  8. @Dova>

    My aeroflot flight to Moscow was delayed and the connecting flight was full in economy. Hence the pleasure of flying business class with aeroflot.

    Two drunk arseholes behind us, a worrying rattle from the general plane, surly flight attenders, marginally better food and a little more room.

    It was OK. We didn’t crash.

    1
  9. @Deebee>

    Vermeulen’s just a class player, not sure if he wanted to prove a point. Pollard and Gelant were also good but the Mountain Goats looked like Chevres de Montagne at times with SP and JJ on the wings.

    1
  10. *steps away from the plebs*

    Chek.
    It’s quite civilized – although I’ve not flown BC onna 380.
    But given all things being equal, and given cabins are fitted to airline specs – I imagine BC onna 380 is quite civilized.
    You get BC lounge and whatnot so’s you don’t have to mix with the likes of this lot.

  11. @sagmog>

    *Steps away from plebs and gives impression that he flies business class all the time whilst providing nothing substantive.*

    Where’s my fecking coffee?

  12. @sagmog>

    The lounge is where it’s at. A colleague snuck me into the BA joint at Heathrow on a business trip last year (the company gave business class travel to senior folk, premium economy to less senior).

    It was great. We ate a ton of food, got pleasantly sozzled, and I fell asleep as soon as the wheels left the tarmac.

    1
  13. @Dr Claws Cat>

    I think it’s wasted on the SA- Europe route (even if it’s nicer than economy) because the time zones aren’t really a problem. I flew Business to Brazil a few years back because the Big4 lot that we were subcontracted to have a clause than anything over a 4 hour flight is automatically business class. I got them to book my ticket under the pretence that it made the recons easier. Was lovely!

    Flew the A380 from Paris to Jo’burg on it’s first flight here a week before the 2010 World Cup kicked off. It was bloody nice, especially the take off and landing, which felt like that old soft as anything Citroen suspension. What was quite disconcerting was that there appeared to be two planeloads of people trying to get onto the same plane – I hadn’t realised it was that big.

  14. @Chekhovian>

    I think some of them still do!

    My best/worst flight was to Cameroon back in 1998. Air Cameroon still allowed smoking and I had given up a couple of months before. I was in the first non-smoking row, right behind the Cameroonian boxing team who had been in SA for the African boxing championships and had a shitload of medals. They were all smoking cigars. I decided against asking them to stop.

    The flight should only be about 4 or 5 hours, but we stopped in Harare in the middle of a monster storm, just avoiding (about a wingspan away) a US C130 parked on the runway. From there, we headed to Kinshasa, in what was still Zaire and had to spiral down quickly to avoid being shot at (or risk it, anyway) as Mabuto was about 3 weeks from being overthrown by Laurent Kabila. Sitting in the stifling heat on the runway for four hours (not allowed off the plane), we were simply fed cold beer to shut us up. An air hostess appeared out of nowhere at one stage as well to reassure us that the booming noises we could hear were in fact fighting in Brazzaville, on the opposite bank of the Congo River and that we were safe, because “they almost never fire shells over this side.”

    When we eventually got out of there, we headed to Douala and were so late we missed our connection to Yaoundé and had to stay over, getting up at 4am to make it to the conference we were attending. Best thing ever as we drove through tropical rainforests at dawn, listening to Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour. Was stunning!

    10
  15. @yosoy>

    Not quite.

    THIS is Deebee’s line:

    We ate a ton of food, got pleasantly sozzled, they paid for it, and I fell asleep as soon as we returned to the meeting room.

    2

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