Super Rugby AU heads into its final round with the venues for both the final and the second versus third playoff set, but with the final participants hinging on the result of this weekend’s first game.
And that result is a simple equation: the Melbourne Rebels need to beat the Western Force on Saturday afternoon by four points or more, and in doing so will finish ahead of the NSW Waratahs in third spot.
That would allow them to go into the playoff against the Queensland Reds on September 12 in Brisbane.
The winner of that game will face the Brumbies in the final in Canberra on Saturday, September 19.
Should the Force beat the Rebels or lose by three points or less, then the Waratahs will hold onto third spot and the headlines for the Rebels will not be complimentary.
The second game of the AU double header sees the Reds hosting the Brumbies in a match of no consequence anymore. It’s hard to see the Brumbies needing to rest bodies after doing just that over the past three games, but might the Reds be tempted to save a few guys for the playoff?
Note, the panel will certainly be keeping an eye on the North v South game in New Zealand in between the AU games on Saturday, but it hasn’t featured in this week’s tipping.
Last Week: Harry 2, everyone else 1
Overall: Harry 28, Brett and The Crowd 27, Digger 26, Dan 25, Nobes and Geoff 24
I am not far from the madding crowd. Just one step to the fore. The resolute Top Man Brett McKay is hunting me down, like Michael Hooper on the kick chase. Let me keep that wee margin. Once more, into the delicious uncertain breach.
This week will feature close matches. The Force can finally make or break someone. The Rebels are a good club side, but they struggle to impose themselves in crucial games. Nervy. A bit like rebellions; the establishment usually survives. Exhibit A: last week.
The Force are a 60-minute team playing a low leadership squad, lacking a plan. Rebels by 3.
The Brumbies are brutally efficient, and full of self-belief. Like all really good sides, they take their luck in stride. The Reds will push them in Brisbane, but not far enough. Too much, too fast, too big. Brumbies by 8.
Sure thing: It will be official this week—SA’s four Super Rugby franchises will join the Pro14, and one of them will win it in their first season.
The big question for me in this weekend’s matches is this: who wants it more?
The Rebels want to quality for some finals for the first time in their history, and so above all else they want four more points than the Force. But if and when the pressure comes on, where will their heads be? How will they react, what decisions will they make? And will it be even remotely close to what Dave Wessels wants them to do? And will it be better than any of the under-pressure decision-making they’ve made during the competition so far?
What do the Force want? A win, for sure. Enough to spoil the Rebels’ party? Maybe. It makes for interesting headlines, and the narrative is still there if you’re prepared to overlook that this is vastly different Force squad to what finished up in Super Rugby all those years ago. Without question, Tim Sampson’s squad deserves more than they currently have to show from Super Rugby AU.
The Reds will want to take momentum into next week’s playoff; the Brumbies will want to take momentum into the final the following week. Both will want to take 23 fit and unscathed bodies into their respective matches.
So it’s a bit hard to know how this game plays out. I strongly suspect that if either team has a suddenly handy lead soon after halftime, the other team won’t be too fussed about trying to chase it down.
Sure thing: Golden Point in one of the two matches; Murphy’s Law suggests it will be the one in which neither team wants to play a minute longer than they have to.
Well, that whole bye theory just sailed on out the window.
Are the Reds good enough? Yes, I think they are capable of tipping over the Brumbies, but I cannot bring myself to trust them as I am unconvinced they can put out an 80-minute performance against the table-topping side, and lack composure at critical stages. I trust the Ponies more, so Brumbies for the win.
Speaking of trust, I do not trust the Rebels at all, but the Force do seem to be struggling in their first season back of regular game time and I struggle to see them getting up this week. Would love to back the Force but I simply cannot. Rebels, albeit with zero confidence.
Sure thing: Michael Hooper will continue to be the greatest underappreciated player of all time.
Sure thing: After tipping against the flow unsuccessfully for months, the week everything clicks for Dan will be the week he’s not around to explain his logic.
This last date in Australia will not change the course of the tournament since the Brumbies have already secured the first place, and the Reds know that they will have to go to play a playoff. That will probably be against the Rebels who, despite being in fourth position, should win their match against the weakest team in the tournament with some comfort.
There is a difficulty in predicting the outcome of the confrontation between Brumbies and Reds since neither of them have an interest in the outcome, and it would be necessary to see what personnel they will put on the turf.
The Reds know that they will have to play one more game than the Brumbies to reach the final, and in the event that this happens they will face a rested Brumbies.
On the other hand, we need to know if the Brumbies will put all their potential on the field before giving rest to their players to reach the final toned. Difficult to know before they declare a team, but I will go for the Brumbies since the Reds bet in my opinion should be to arrive at the playoff rested.
The other game is clearer, the Rebels must win well against the Force and will have to put everything they have on the turf to get the result.
Sure thing: Argentine professional rugby is in limbo with no major competitions to play in the near future. Any hard-won was quickly lost.
Plenty of interest this week for Waratahs fans, with support swinging in behind the Force for an upset in Newcastle. I suspect they’ll be disappointed.
No doubt the Force will give things a real shake but there isn’t enough class and depth there to take the Rebels, for whom Isi Naisarani appears to have recovered well from his untimely tete-a-tete with Lachie Swinton’s shoulder.
Ignore all of the ‘nothing on it’ narrative around the Reds vs Brumbies clash – while it’s true that a loss isn’t terminal for either, I’m expecting a red-hot go and another exciting contest. It feels like a 50/50, but in the interests of going against the likely flow, to try to scrounge an extra point, it’s the Reds for me.
Sure thing: New Zealand’s North versus South squads enjoying a golf day together tells us all we need to know about this Saturday’s contest. We’ll all enjoy the rugby for what it is, but with ‘State of the Union’ proposed for next year, Rugby Australia will need to decide if it actually wants to develop a meaningful state rivalry, or else bodgie up the eligibility criteria, allowing a wider pool of players to be involved, but in the process rendering the contest meaningless, other than a manufactured exhibition.
|AU Week 10||Harry||Brett||Digger||Geoff||Nobes||Dan||The Crowd|
|REB v FOR||REB||REB||REB||REB||REB||REB||REB|
|RED v BRU||BRU||BRU||BRU||RED||BRU||RED||RED|
Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon (AEST).