Super Rugby: What I want to see in 2017

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert


98 Have your say

    It’s suddenly getting toward that time of year again, and looking at squads for an Australian Super Rugby teams magazine preview over the weekend gave reason to think about what I want to see from our sides.

    Collectively, all five sides playing really good rugby is the simple summary. But each side is a little bit different, and all have different expectations.

    So, here’s what I want to see from the Australian sides this year.

    First and foremost for the Brumbies, is a trouble-free year!

    There was far too much going on in 2016, with players announcing defections and boardroom shenanigans, with more plot twists and backflips than a daytime soap opera.

    If none of that is repeated in 2017, then they’ll already be in front.

    And I’m sure I won’t be alone in wanting to see the Brumbies remembering how to use their backline, after the forwards and the lineout drive was all too often the default play once they entered the opposition 22. There’s nothing wrong with using the forwards to lay a platform, and the Brumbies will need that again, but the only way to prove you’re not a predictable side is to do something unpredictable.

    That means the likes of Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani have to start the season confidently and looking for the ball, because if they tick both those boxes, then the outside backs will have a chance to express themselves.

    Key to this will be to decide who the next Brumbies No.10 will be.

    It’s clear that Christian Lealiifano won’t feature much (if at all) in 2017, and so this season represents a huge audition for the future. The Canberra Vikings’ constant chopping and changing through their seven weeks of the NRC did young Nick Jooste no favours, but if he’s the ‘next Larkham’ like they think he can be, they just need to back him.

    Similarly, Southland flyhalf Wharenui Hawera trained with the squad before Christmas, though it hasn’t been confirmed if he’s part of the plans for 2017.

    Regardless of who it is, there will need to be a bit of ‘pick and stick’ for the first few games while combinations are established. And the sooner that happens, the better for the Brumbies this season.

    Melbourne Rebels
    2017 has to be the season the Rebels take the next step. They’ve been hovering around the fringe of the playoffs for the last couple of seasons, and promising plenty, but ultimately falling short when it counts.

    Though the tag ‘young squad’ still applies, and with that comes certain liberties, the reality is that that young squad now have a decent amount of Super Rugby experience, both as individuals and as a collective. They really shouldn’t still be searching for combinations; the combinations are already there.

    Starting well and posting wins early is crucial for all sides, but for the Rebels, a run of wins can build more confidence and create more momentum as the side strives to prove it is among the best in Super Rugby. And winning away is just as important, too. Four away wins in 2016 was a record, but their overall record of 11 wins from 48 away games must improve.

    They lose Adam Thompson from their abundant backrow stokes, but surely now regain Lopeti Timani in the No.8 jersey, after he made a solid fist of it in Wallaby gold, providing exactly the sort of destruction you want from the back of the scrum. Add Sean McMahon and Jordy Reid (and Colby Fainga’a, for that matter) into the mix, and it’s a quality backrow that should be the getting the better of most opposition.

    Which leaves me with the Rebels’ attack. The recruitment of Ben Volavola last week – and they already had Jackson Garden-Bachop from Wellington in the stable – send a pretty clear message that Jack Debreczeni is looking at a new role in 2017, and the Melbourne Rising did play some good rugby with Debreczeni at fullback.

    Volavola’s move to the Crusaders was cut short by the emergence of Richie Mo’unga, so it will be interesting to see if he’s the guy to unlock the likes of Reece Hodge at 12, and the flying Fijians on the wings: Sefa Naivalu and Morike Koroibete.

    The Rebels need some spark out wide, and I can’t wait to see it this season.

    Melbourne Rising flyhalf Jack Debreczeni

    I’m not quite sure what to expect from the Waratahs this season, yet.

    In some positions, they’ve definitely strengthened, while in others they’ve not really done anything, which might leave them vulnerable. So I suppose what I expect from the Waratahs is another strong season from which they might not emerge the top Australian side, but they shouldn’t be far off it.

    First and foremost, let 2017 be the season in which Israel Folau plays the number he’s wearing. I almost don’t even care what the number is anymore, but one thing’s for sure, this half-front line, half-back, half-wing, half-pregnant game he played last year had to have had an impact on his instincts and it’s just time to simplify his game and let him do what he does best.

    The flow-on from that is instructive, too. If Folau plays 13 fulltime, then Andrew Kellaway or Cameron Clark can properly develop as fullbacks. If Folau stays at fullback and the Tahs abandon the front line attacking experiment, then we get to see if Irae Simone really could be as good as everyone seems to thinks he will be.

    Sekope Kepu will be welcomed back up front, but I hope Tom Robertson is allowed to keep developing as a tighthead. I still don’t really get why the Wallabies did it, and I really don’t think the Waratahs can afford to look a gift no.3 in the mouth. Damien Fitzpatrick will keep the hooker rotation spicy, and I’ll be interested to see how Michael Wells fits into the backrow formations.

    The Waratahs have plenty of strike power, but it might actually be the forwards that we see their greatest improvements, and that can’t be a bad thing. Michael Hooper can’t keep doing it all on his own, and so I want to see guys like Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway, and Tolu Latu prosper with a full season ahead of them.

    Israel Folau NSW Waratahs Super Rugby Rugby Union 2016

    This is bound to appeal to 20 per cent of the Australian reading audience, but I actually want to see the Reds top the Australian conference. And I know that brings the by-product of suddenly vocal and over-confident Reds supporters with it, but if that all come to be, it means the Reds are playing great rugby again, and the rebuild is going superbly.

    On the back of one of the more aggressive – and successful – off-season recruitment campaigns, the Reds head into 2017 with a squad not for next season, but for now.

    You can’t bring names like Moore, Smith, Higginbotham, Houston, and Cooper into a side and ‘hope to finish in the top half’. The Reds need to start winning from Round 1, and they should be the Australian pace-setters from there.

    So, I want to see Quade Cooper pulling all the strings again, and I want to see George Smith proving that age is but a number, and I want to see Scott Higginbotham running with freedom and promoting national debate of all varieties.

    But beyond that, I want to see Karmichael Hunt injury-free and playing like the natural footballer we all know he is. I want to see Samu Kerevi and the young centres Campbell Magnay and Duncan Paia’aua become regulars. And if Izaia Perese starts carving up Super Rugby like he’s carved up every other level he’s played, I’ll be grabbing the popcorn before every Queensland game. I want to see all of that.

    Quade Cooper watches a penalty goal attempt (AAP Image/Theron Kirkman)

    Western Force
    In 2017, above all else, I want to see the Western Force remind everyone of the reason the game expanded west in the first place. The Force have always had a hugely passionate support base, but those hardy souls haven’t had much to cheer about in recent times.

    And with the Force’s new community shareholding model, in asking the supporters to consolidate and fortify their support for the club, 2017 needs to be the season the side properly reconnects with the ‘Sea of Blue’. And there’s no better way to do that than to win games, and above all else, play some great rugby.

    Tatafu Polota-Nau could prove to be a really handy signing. He’ll be a wonderful leader on and off the field, and he’ll be a huge help for the young hookers in the squad. Heath Tessmann and Polota-Nau will keep each other honest and on their toes – two guys like that tussling for a start can only inspire the younger forwards.

    Out wider, Jonno Lance is again the key player. If he can stay fit for the season, then the Force’s midfield defence benefits, and their attack is noticeably better. Perth Spirit played a really open game during the NRC, from which we got to see what Billy Meakes is capable of, and a reminder of Luke Morahan’s abilities in half gaps.

    Throw Dane Haylett-Petty into that mix too, and there should be no secret to the way the Force play in 2017.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • January 10th 2017 @ 7:21am
      The Desert Nut said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      It’s about time for the Force to come out and play. They do have some talented players and I hope that Wessels, the current coach, isn’t another dud. The Force almost made the finals back in 2014, that shows that they’re capable of more than what they are now.

      • January 10th 2017 @ 9:25am
        Boris said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Yeah I hope the Force have a strong year. It seems like they’re building a strong culture there which is exactly what they need. Their defiance for all the calls for their axing makes me like them even more. They’ve had a real go at ensuring the longevity of the club and their determination is wonderful to see. I reckon they’ll stick it up some of the more fancied teams.

        • January 10th 2017 @ 11:51am
          piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          We have always been good at getting up for big games upsetting top teams (ask the Crusaders), what we need to see is week in, week out success – we haven’t seen it since the Honeybadger and Pocock shared the field.

          I’m hopeful of a big year (which I say every year at around this time).

          • January 10th 2017 @ 12:55pm
            Perthstayer said | January 10th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

            Piru – 2017 WF has the players, facilities, attitude, culture and support to succeed. The unknown is Wessels.

            He is liked and respected by the players and made some good off-season noises. But sadly it’s fingers crossed again!

            • January 10th 2017 @ 1:03pm
              piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

              Great thing about this time of year is we are equal to everyone else!

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2017 @ 1:35pm
                Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

                … except you’re about 3 hours behind everybody else! 🙂

              • January 10th 2017 @ 1:56pm
                piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

                3 hours and 30 years, but who’s counting?

              • Roar Guru

                January 10th 2017 @ 5:07pm
                Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

                Hey buddy talkin’ of 30 odd years did you see the Crimson Tide go out?

                Cracker of a contest… well done Clemson!

              • January 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm
                piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

                I saw the score but I’m only allowed a limited amount of football TV time and I spent this week’s on Pack vs Giants

                How much could the ARU learn from the NFL about putting on a show?

            • January 10th 2017 @ 7:09pm
              Bakkies said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

              What concerns me is that Wessels is very young to be a head coach at this level.

              • January 10th 2017 @ 7:59pm
                piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                That could be to his advantage

    • January 10th 2017 @ 7:30am
      Cynical Play said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      HNY Brett.

      I think, on paper, the Reds should top the Oz conference on talent and experience. It will be interesting to see how the old war horses go in the forwards. As usual, injuries will also determine who chalks the most wins.

      I cannot otherwise see how this is going to pan out. i don’t think the Tahs have the team to grab it. The Brumbies have some big holes but are well coached and have a proud culture. The rebels have some consistency and have added recruited well. I think they have, potentially, the most potent backline (though Izzy might have something to say there). I cant see the Force improving their position, though they will win a few.

      Pulling the names out of hat I think the finishing order for 2017 will be


      • January 10th 2017 @ 9:34am
        Celtic334 said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Front rows


        Second Rows




        9/10 combo




        Back 3


        Forward Depth

        Rebels / Force

        Backs Depth


        Overall i cant see that much difference between the Tahs and the Reds, both i expect to make the finals.
        The Rebels and Force haven’t got too much between them. Both squads look better than last season. Neither good enough for a finals push.
        Brumbies have some strengths but too many weaknesses and an injury to any player in the starting line up will seriously test their depth. Horrible to say it but apart from the Kings and Sunwolves i can’t see them being much better than other teams on the log (although i do expect even weaker South African teams this season). Would be happy if i’m completely wrong on this and have to eat my words.

        Anyway overall im happy as long as we get two teams through to the finals. There isn’t any more than a handful of 30+ point drubbings and that all teams hover around 50% record at home (worst case scenario).

        • January 10th 2017 @ 11:56am
          Jock Cornet said | January 10th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          Typical red supporter , best in all areas but can’t win a game and every red supporter blowing up at Cheika for not having 7 reds in the wallabies. Your best player is a 45 yr backrower. Don’t blame the coach when your fighting for the spoon

          • January 10th 2017 @ 12:36pm
            Celtic334 said | January 10th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            I support the Rebels, but anyway ill justify my thoughts.

            Front Row – The Reds have had the best performing scrum in Australia for years (the only thing going well for them). Add to this the emergence of Tupou and the addition of Moore means that arguably the second best hooker in oz is coming off the bench. The front row is also quite young, so a year older and better. The Brumbies have good starting front row, but seriously lack depth. Saia Faingaa is also a dramatic decline in quality on Moore. Ruan Smith going will hurt the rotation and Alexander is on his last legs. Tahs have depth on one side of the front row and some depth at hooker (but not moore and ready quality). Rebels outside Weekes and Smith aren’t the same level and the Force are marginally improved upfront with the inclusion of TPN.

            Second Row – Simmons, Douglas, Tui, Neville not much else needs to be said. Brumbies are solid but Carter isnt as good as Simmons, Enever isnt as good as Douglas and Staniforth is a big talent. The Tahs have Skelton and Mumm with a young Hannigan. The Rebels are very light on.

            Back Row – Higgers, Smith, Tui, Houston and Timu means they have unrivaled depth. I could argue the Tahs being the best here with Hooper, Dempsey and Holloway but they slip off when it comes to depth. The Rebels could also be argued as having the best back row, but lack of size and an out and out 6 means they have potential weaknesses. Force back row is great as well. Infact an argument for all 4 sides could be had, its a real strength of the aussie sides. The reds were selected on depth. The brumbies potenitally have 3 players who wouldn’t make any of the other franchises at back row.

            9/10 combo – Phipps and Foley has weaknesses at int level but at super level they are a good outfit, Quade and Frisby potentially are as good. Force have a good young 9 with a classy playmaker at 10. Rebels have depth at 9 and options with ‘potential’ at 10. The Brumbies have a class 9 but the worst of all teams options at 10.

            Centres – Tahs wins this category through depth, Horne, Folau, Simone. The Brumbies starting pairing of Godwin and Kurindrani are one of the best in the competition although beyond them isn’t much. Reds have depth and some quality esp with Kerevi. Rebels have options but they are more outside back options than centres and the Force have a solid pairing. Ultimately all teams are well equipped here but some teams lack depth in this area.

            Back 3 – DHP, Morahan, etc are the most dangerous out of the 5 franchises but lack some depth. The Rebels have the most options and some real strike power but lack technical players that can kick. Reds have solid options but nothing that will strike any fear except Perese but hes very much an unknown. Tahs have some good depth but give me a back 3 of DHP, Morahan and Rona over Clarke, Naiyaravoro and Kellaway. The Rebels were picked as they easily have the greatest depth Hodge, JD, Koribete, Naivalu, Maddocks, Shipperly, Fou, English and Placid. The Brumbies other than Speight dont have much on offer at all.

            Forward Depth – easily QLD, itd take a convincing argument to say otherwise. Tahs have some quality in depth in some spots as do the Rebels. Brumbies and Force outside the starting packs are very unknown.

            Backs Depth – Tahs clearly have the most backs depth, and after looking at my selections id have the Rebels at 2 in this category now. Some many choices at centre and back 3 for them. The reds have some solid back up without being amazing but lack depth at 9/10. Force and Brumbies again is the unknown.

            Overall i think the Aus conference is in a much better place than this time last year, but still a few levels behind the Kiwi teams. Hopefully this year all teams unearth some talent and we see an upward trajectory for every team by seasons end.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 1:26pm
              Markus said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

              Brumbies props should be fine. Alaalatoa to start alongside Sio, Alexander to play half games from the bench. Ruan Smith failed to ever really perform until late last season, Makin or Nic Mayhew should cover his departure fine. Hooker a far bigger problem, Saia a step down from Moore and the replacement Mann-Rea older than Moore too.

              For locks, Simmons is better than Carter but Arnold is better than Douglas, and Staniforth better than Neville.

              Backrow will be a step down without Pocock and Vaea, though if Fakaosilea performs they may be fairly well rounded there.

              Centres not outstanding but depth not as bad as initial appearance. Jackson-Hope looks promising at 12, and Ant Faingaa and Andrew Smith both have plenty of experience in cover.

              Flyhalf is a concern, Jooste did not look ready even in the NRC. I wonder if Godwin will end up starting there at times.

              Back three by far the weakest. Tomane was their best back last year before injury, none of the other wingers stood out. Toua was a liability and Coleman is no longer there to cover fullback.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 1:30pm
              Jock Cornet said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

              Yeah it is all good buying players but will they gel . The tahs have the runs and continuity to again win the pool easily and have a better domestic comp to choose reserves if injuries occur. A couple of injuries to the reds and force early and there season are caput. But it is good to dream and then hear the excuses during the year. Poor Richard Graham and wessels are going to cop it.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 2:43pm
              Neil said | January 10th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

              Celtic, following the NRC if you are suggesting that Ready is the “second best hooker” you are deluded. Latu, TPN and Hanson sit well before him. In the locks, Simmons is a waste of our oxygen and should simply retire and open a flower shop. He is pathetic. Hopefully Douglas will regain form. Neville I feel is also under-rated. In the Loosies, we are yet to see if Higgers has any of his old form (it was well gone when he headed overseas) and the jury is out on Leroy. Smith and Tui are unquestionable.

              • January 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm
                Browny said | January 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

                Neil, Higgers was probably the form Australian 8 (in SR) before he departed. He had a great couple of years down south before his Japanese stint.

              • January 10th 2017 @ 7:14pm
                RubberLegs said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

                Simmons is the best lock Australia has had in a long time >60 caps and the most carries in the last test. If only the rest of the Wallaby team could do their job as well. Simmo should captain the Reds. In 2014/2015 the Reds backline leaked tries like a sieve. Show-pony turnstile backs have let the Reds down in recent years. Quade will organise them this year. Special K is still learning rugby- he’s too old now.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 7:22pm
              Bakkies said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

              ‘Hooker a far bigger problem, Saia a step down from Moore and the replacement Mann-Rea older than Moore too.’

              Signing Sa’ia was ridiculous as it meant signing his brother to keep him happy. It happened and now the Brumbies have got two rank average players in key positions in a small squad. The Brumbies should have gone after Anthony Hegarty a strong scrummaging hooker from the ACT who has been playing for Grenoble. Grenoble are heading towards Pro D2 and will be shaken up with more local options being employed in the squad.

              • January 10th 2017 @ 8:13pm
                RubberLegs said | January 10th 2017 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

                Saia was one of the best on the 2014/2015 EOYT – hasn’t been picked since. He will be great after the rest.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 8:02am
                Markus said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

                It didn’t seem like the Brumbies had any intention of signing Anthony Faingaa until after they got the news on Lealiifano, as he was quite a late signing and only on a one year contract.
                At such late notice I think he is a pretty handy signing to add some depth.

              • January 11th 2017 @ 1:29pm
                Bakkies said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

                The only reason why Sa’ia left in the first place is that he wanted to play with his brother. Sai’a had an offer but Anthony didn’t so they went to the Reds as a package.

                The theory that Anthony went to the Brumbies to keep his brother happy has merits. A squad place just had to open up. They’ve had respective offers overseas previously that would have helped either of them financially but it meant playing away from each other.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 8:04pm
              ThugbyFan said | January 10th 2017 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

              Nicely written Celtic, well thought out. That Reds forward roster looks frightening in comparison to any others in the Oz conference. Rebels and Tahs have strong packs, massive back 3 but both are relatively weak in the 2nd row.

              For me I agree with you that the Reds almost look a shoo-in with their really strong forward backups and improved back line. I see the Tahs and Rebels as fighting for the 2nd-3rd places and likely Force and Brumbies brawling for the spoon.

              The big decider of who goes where will be injuries, luck of the draw and travel fatigue. And of course coaching! Knowing that at least one Australian side will dump their coach, my prediction is S.Larkham will be “relegated” to a lesser role by season end as the Brumbies find that lineout mauls are so yesterday.

        • January 10th 2017 @ 2:21pm
          What! said | January 10th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

          Front row reds?

          Better than the Brumbies?
          I dont think so.

          Sadly I think the Reds are the best team in Aus and they prolly will top the conference. The sad part is because none of the other teams are any good in comparrison to NZ teams.
          Imo all NZ teams are better than all Aus teams on paper.
          This is not a “NZ rules” statement but a sad indicator at where the game is in Aus.

          They have 2 class Aus flyhalfs for 5 teams.
          2 class Aus halfbacks for 5 teams.

          Lets face it. Pulu, Weber, Perenara, Smith and Kerr-Barlow are all better than anything Aus has in any of its teams.

          Aus has its talent too thin, is getting its butt kicked and they are losing fans as a result.

          Its no coincidence that Aus rugby was at its strongest with a strong Wallaby team and strong Super Rugby teams.

          Who you think is going to dominate Super Rugby again?
          NZ (yawn).

          NZ is slowly getting more and more dominant. The trend will continue. Maybe all 5 NZ teams in the finals this year?

          I love Super Rugby but this trend is alarming when you consider how SA has lost many players and spread its depth thinner.

          If it wasnt for the huge surprise that was the Lions….

          • January 10th 2017 @ 2:35pm
            What! said | January 10th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

            Im not your buddy and teams and players change over the years you clown.

            Otherwise we wouldnt bother playing and we would just give the title to last years winner.

            But dont worry, youve got 1 of last years Brumbies at the Reds and theyve got a Red.

            Now Im just wondering, will that make the Reds stronger or weaker according to your logic (or lack of it).

            Im sure you can fabricate some stats to try and convince people. You did that with Deans.

            Deans 58%.
            Since Deans 53%.

            Your tireless efforts got you what you wished for Kev.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 3:04pm
              Red Kev said | January 10th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

              John Connolly – 66%

              Deans – 58%.

              Up the Queenslanders!!!!!

              • January 10th 2017 @ 3:27pm
                What! said | January 10th 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

                Was Connolly a QLDer?
                I thought he was from NSW like Inglis and Folau.
                No wonder you like him, hes not from Aus, hes from QLD. Sadly thats the way far too many of you think and sadly it must hurt the game in Aus.

                Go QLD Kev, go QLD.

              • January 10th 2017 @ 4:28pm
                Red Kev said | January 10th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

                Aus is in QLD and Connolly won more than Deans buddy! Get with it Messa!

            • January 10th 2017 @ 3:05pm
              Red Kev said | January 10th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

              Aren’t you due for a new new name yet messa?

              • January 10th 2017 @ 3:28pm
                What! said | January 10th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

                Never been called Messa.
                So thats about as silly as calling McKenzie a QLDer.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm
              Red Kev said | January 10th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

              Red Kev posts with his Avatar. Accept no substitutes or imitations.

            • January 10th 2017 @ 4:03pm
              Taylorman said | January 10th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

              Maybe he’s Not Bothered RedKev?

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2017 @ 5:07pm
              Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report


          • January 10th 2017 @ 7:16pm
            Bakkies said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

            You know things are bad when Brad Weber is rated ahead of any of the local Aussie based options. I saw him play for the NZ Maoris against Munster and he was absolutely brutal.

      • January 10th 2017 @ 7:14pm
        Bakkies said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

        I have my doubts about the Reds. The tight five is average. A row of Douglas and Simmons wouldn’t scare a kitten. In the back row the bizarre recruitment of George Smith may end up preventing youngsters from getting sufficient game time. Smith didn’t sign a contract that long to sit on the bench. It should be Michael Gunn’s breakthrough season. Smith knows himself he only got his Brumbies regular starting spot when Brett Robinson stepped aside. Not long after that he was in the Wallabies and with Gill and Pocock away the Wallabies need another option.

        In terms of attack it takes a season or two to get rid of MOC Ball and the bad habits it brings. Fish paste hasn’t played a lot of Rugby lately and Frisby can be erratic.

    • January 10th 2017 @ 7:54am
      Lostintokyo said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      You raise many pertinent points Brett. One thing is for sure, if the Wallabies are to have a better year than 2016, the Super sides must perform.

      Last year Aussie rugby got off to a terrible start and never recovered. More skills training, a lot more emphasis on fitness and less whiteboard. The Super sides’ respective coaches have a responsibility to lay the platform. The ARU and the fans depend on it.

      • January 10th 2017 @ 1:00pm
        Perthstayer said | January 10th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

        LIT – Wessels has stated pretty much he wants to follow your theory “More skills training, a lot more emphasis on fitness and less whiteboard”

        • January 12th 2017 @ 5:04pm
          piru said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          If we could make those last passes stick over the last few years we’d have had a few more wins

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2017 @ 8:05am
      Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      I want… to say thanks Brett for this piece 🙂

      Gotta agree that on paper if the REDs can make a fist of this season then there’s something very wrong going on north of the border. What a roster!

      Also agree that it’s time for the Rebels and Force to make a difference. TPN will be a sensation for the Force, on or off the field.
      I’m already missing him.

      For mine the Brumbies are the dark horse, no pun intended. I haven’t got a clue what they”ll bring, but just hope they bring it!

      Please notice I didn’t mentioned anything about the Tahs… except to ask that you’re not sold on Irae Simone Brett?

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Correction… ‘if the REDs can’t make a fist of this season… ‘

      • January 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm
        piru said | January 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        I’m going to put $100 on the Force to win the Aussie conference.

        Think of those odds

      • Columnist

        January 10th 2017 @ 4:50pm
        Brett McKay said | January 10th 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

        No, no, I’m well sold on Simone! I’m just saying, for us to find out if he’s as good as we think (hope), Folau needs to stay at fullback full time..

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm
          Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

          All good… your credibility Brett on such matters was never in question (hopefully) 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2017 @ 8:52am
      Will Sinclair said | January 10th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      Actually shaping up as a really interesting Aussie conference, isn’t it?

      More than anything I would like to see the Aussie teams more competitive against our beloved Kiwi neighbours. They’re the absolute measuring stick, and we are privileged to be able to play them week in and week out, but we need to start putting some wins on the board.

      I’ve even got a bit of a soft spot for the Reds, and hope they can start pulling themselves out of the hole this season. (Now, please excuse me, I need to go and take a very long and very hot shower.)

      • January 10th 2017 @ 9:28am
        Boris said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        A soft spot for the Reds?? Don’t say anything you might regret Will!

    • January 10th 2017 @ 9:02am
      Luke Ringland said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Tough one to pick for top Australian team.

      On paper you would think the Reds are the front runner, but we’ve seen Real Madrids fail before. There was a Brumbies team from a few years back that fits that bill.

      The Rebels? You have to think they have a lot of points in them on their day. Defense will be the key. I’m tipping not good enough week in week out.

      Brumbies. Absolutely no idea how they’ll go. Depends on the form of these young fly halves. Pocock a huge loss. Hard to see it happening.

      Force. Probably the one team you could feel very confident not bet against not topping the conference, along with the Brumbies. Not enough depth. But you never know.

      Waratahs. As a Tahs supporter, I’m confident. Daryl Gibson seems to understand how to play Super Rugby really well. Let us not forget that he directed the Tahs attack in 2014. Injuries at crucial times made last year a tough one. To fight it out with the Reds, but I for one am confident.

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Will Sinclair said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        I tend to agree, Luke.

        I think the Tahs are just about certainties to top the Aussie conference. Started slowly last season, but finished well. And have more experience playing together than any other Aussie side.

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          Geez Will… there you go talkin’ it up. Shush shush please!

          Same goes for you too Luke 🙂

        • January 10th 2017 @ 11:20am
          Akari said | January 10th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          Can only agree, Will, if the Tahs losing the last 2 games on the trot is a “finished well” end to last year?

          I believe Chooks lost more than a few feathers in those two games too.

          • January 10th 2017 @ 7:00pm
            ThugbyFan said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

            Shhhhh, Akari and Chookman, you will wake up RT and we will have him telling us how “East Bondi aka Auckland” finished off the Ponies and Tahs last year. But you are dead right, Tahs’ last two games last year were pretty horrible but for me the game that killed their SR2016 chances was the loss at home to the Rebels. That was a waste of a fine Sunday arvo.

            Sadly I don’t see the Tahs as any threat this year (at best 3rd in Aussie Conference) as their big weakness for SR2017 is obviously Locks and overall forward depth. I see the Tahs have even resigned D.McDuling from a few years back to try to add depth in the 2nd row which consists at present of Powder Puff and the Wild Fatman (D.Mumm and W.Skelton). Remember that last year once J.Holloway and J.Dempsey got injured, it was goodnight nurse. And this year no D.Dennis or TPN (huge losses), S.Lousi, W.Palu, K.Beale or B.Robinson.

            As an aside, I only saw him in the NRC but wow I like the cut of the jib of Irae Simone. I know he plays IC at Norths, any comment on trying him out at #10? Has he the varied kicking game to be a success there?

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2017 @ 7:13pm
              Machooka said | January 10th 2017 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

              Happy NY Akari and Thugby… and alas I’m not saying anything more on the Tahs. OK?

              Except, well, ummm, like… this is their year baby. Yeah baby!

              They’re gonna finish top of the Aussie conference.

              They’ll be Super champions again in 2017!

              And… and…

              Shush, shush… back to sleep Chooka. There, there it was only a dream.

              Bad dream, bad dream!

              • January 10th 2017 @ 9:32pm
                ThugbyFan said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:32pm | ! Report

                Peace be with you, Machooka and have a GREAT 2017 also. If there really are gods on Mt Olympus (or Kosciuszko), then in between sipping vino and deflowering local maidens, may they decree that 2017 be the year of the Tahs and great WB resurgence to their rightful place on the International pecking order; ie: Numero UNO.

                However I do feel those gods need to get at least one towering rugger brute into the Tahs 2nd row before that SR cup returns to its rightful owners. 🙂

              • January 10th 2017 @ 9:34pm
                ThugbyFan said | January 10th 2017 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

                Oh and I forgot, incidentally I hope you have realised that 2017 is the Year of the Chook. 🙂

              • January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am
                Bring Back...? said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

                TF, you’re absolutely right about that Tahs v Rebels match. Tuned out for the rest of the Tah’s SR season after that. Was momentarily stirred with the win over the Chiefs but, alas, another false dawn.