Happy New Year rugby fans! What better way to start this highly condensed year of rugby than to take a look into the Australian forecast for the 2013 Super Rugby competition.
To look ahead into what is in store for us this season, we first must take a glimpse back at the year that was. 2012 was one of the biggest years for change and unrest across Australian rugby in recent memory.
From midseason coach sackings, to mutiny within the Wallabies ranks, it has been a roller coaster ride for all fans.
There were certainly positives from last year’s transitional season, the Wallabies considerable injury toll has not only unearthed some new talent, it has also forced the ARU to reconsider the way it manages the five Australian franchises.
The Western Force and NSW Waratahs both received much needed cleanouts from the top down, which should benefit both franchises and Australian rugby overall.
With Quade Cooper coming to an agreement with the ARU and the major signing of Israel Folau from the clutches of the NRL, rugby has been headlining on most sports pages for the past month. It has made for some interesting reading and is putting some real interest into the 2013 Super Rugby season.
2013 will be a year for optimism and belief. I am putting my faith in the Australian conference this year, hoping that most teams have found the right staff and game plans to match their squad’s strengths.
I am predicting two Australian teams will still be alive come finals time and for one of those teams to battle it out for the Super Rugby trophy in August.
Now let’s take a look at our local teams and their chances of success, starting with the ACT Brumbies.
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
3. Dan Palmer
4. Sam Carter
5. Scott Fardy
6. Ben Mowen
7. David Pocock (c)
8. Fotu Auelua
9. Nic White
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Henry Speight
12. Pat McCabe
13. Andrew Smith
14. Joe Tomane
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Siliva Siliva
17. Ruaidhri Murphy
18. Etienne Oosteinzen
19. Ita Vaea
20. Ian Prior
21. Matt Toouma
22. Tevita Kuridrani
23. Scott Sio
24. Leon Power
25. Peter Kimlin
26. Colby Fiangaa
27. Robbie Coleman
28. Zack Holmes
29. K Situai
30. Tom Cox
Extended playing squad
31. Josh Mann-Rea – hooker
32. Ruan Smith – prop
33. Jordan Smiler – blindside
34. Mark Swanepoel – scrum half
35. Stephan Van der walt – outside back
S Sio, R Murphy, S Fardy, D Pocock, J Mogg, E Oosteizen
Jono Owen , Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Anthony Hegarty , Ben Hand, Michael Hooper, Cam Crawford, Dylan Sigg
The Brumbies are going into 2013 with plenty of optimism and self-belief in their ability. Jake White has taken a youthful team and has created an ideal squad, with each player understanding his role on the park. They will no longer be taken lightly by any team, however I think that Jake will have prepared his team for this and adjusted his game plan accordingly.
The culture is back, and the talent is there, however the Brumbies have to deliver a big season and improve on their seventh place finish if they are going to return to a championship team like the glory days.
Without McCabe for the early part of the season, the Brumbies’ more experienced players in the backline will really need to take charge and show their worth.
Predicted finish – conference second – overall fifth
Christian Lealiifano has developed into the key player for the Brumbies. He was unpredictable and electric in his attack, and how he returns from a serious ankle injury will be the key to the Brumbies’ season.
However he has to be very wary of the ever improving Zack Holmes, who showed his talent in the 10 position and will be looking for more opportunities in 2013.
Up and comer
If Siliva Siliva can stay fit and strong he will be a great asset for a Brumbies team loaded with up and coming players. He is a strong ball running hooker, with all the necessary skills for the set piece.
Siliva will find stiff competition from Mann-Rea for the bench spot this season. Mann-Rea has signed a one year deal as part of the EPS at the ripe age of 31.
Also keep an eye on Mark Swanepoel, who is not a stranger to Super Rugby having spent time in the Force and Crusader systems before taking an EPS position with the Brumbies. He is a physical halfback with a strong pass and a good read on the game.
I expect him to be the number one halfback at the Brumbies by the end of 2013, with White used off the bench to add life to the team at the back end of the game.
Who else than the people’s champion? David Pocock was a fantastic acquisition for Mr White, who divulged that Poccok was one player he had always wanted to coach. With Pocock suffering a lengthy stint on the side lines, he has spent plenty of time in the off season experiencing the Brumbies’ culture and style. I believe this will pay some serious dividends for Pocock’s game and will quickly return him to the form that made him the best 7 in Australia.
Michael Hooper was the star of 2012 in both Brumbies and Wallabies colours. He was instrumental in the revival of the Brumbies and has put some serious pressure on Pocock as the country’s leading openside.
The Brumbies were lucky to find such an adequate player in Pocock to take over the 7 jersey, but still don’t discount the loss of Hooper to the Brumbies’ structure.