Kiwis prosper, Aussies struggle
By Roger Childs
Last weekend’s Super Rugby results illustrated the contrasts on either side of the Tasman. Whereas all the three New Zealand teams who played won, four out of the five Australian teams lost. And the only Aussie win was in the Sydney-Melbourne derby.
After five rounds there are four Kiwi teams in the top eight on the table, and four Australian teams in the bottom seven.
In 2016 there was similar pattern. At the end of the qualifying rounds the Hurricanes, Highlanders, Chiefs and Crusaders featured in the top 6, whereas all the Australian teams, except the Brumbies, were in the bottom 9.
The writing is on the wall for a fifth team across the Tasman.
Good weekend for NZ teams
The Blues were the most impressive with a 38-14 win over the Bulls. After fading badly in the second half against the Crusaders the previous week, this was an 80 minute effort.
All Black prop Charlie Faumuina returning from injury made a big difference in the scrummaging, and bringing Ihaia West on in the second half at first five gave the inside backs more punch. Jerome Kaino was in great form and the classy Blues backs made the most of their chances to run in six tries.
Augustine Pulu at half back is providing excellent service for the Blues and has plenty of pace on the break.
Tana Umaga learnt from his mistake in Christchurch, and brought on his bench players early in the half and these fresh legs had a very positive impact.
The Crusaders had a comfortable, but at times messy win, over the Force. The latter defended well and, surprisingly, at times had the better of the Crusaders front row.
It was good to see the home team’s backs shifting the ball quickly and backing up well to create the extra man. Bateman is providing much needed mid field penetration as well as strong defence, and is developing an impressive combination with Crotty.
The Highlanders had a tough game in Canberra and had to defend stoutly in the last 10 minutes to hold on for their 18-13 win.
Decision time across the Tasman
The buzz over here is that they have already decided who will go from Aussie teams – logically it should be us (the Rebels) or the Force – if you go on results we have been better than them most years – but the media here are tipping the Brumbies. John Smith in Melbourne
The Australians have struggled for years to field five competitive teams. Many New Zealand players, who haven’t been able to make a local franchise squad, have been welcomed with open arms across the Tasman.
In terms of performances over the last ten years, the Waratahs, Brumbies and Reds would have the inside running to remain in the competition for 2018. However, for the good of the game on a national level, there will be strong pressure to keep the Western Australian and Victorian bases.
There is no way they will close down the Reds franchise in Queensland, so that leaves combining the Waratahs and the Brumbies into a New South Wales team.
If that happens, home matches could alternate between Sydney and Canberra, and surplus players could move to Perth and Melbourne to strengthen those teams.
Four strong teams would have to be good for the game in Australia.