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Opinion

Australian rugby must learn the lessons of the 2013 Brumbies

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Roar Rookie
14th June, 2021
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The 2013 Brumbies were coached by IRB Hall of Famer Jake White.

His achievement list includes coaching the South African under 21s to a World Cup win in 2002 and then backing up with the South African senior side to a win in 2007.

2013 was a successful year for the Brumbies team as they made the Super Rugby final just falling short to the Chiefs and defeated the touring British and Irish Lions 14-12, becoming the first provincial side to do so since 1997.

For the season they had a 3-win 2-loss record against Kiwi opposition, with one loss being by five points in the final versus the Chiefs and the other being a seven-point loss to the Crusaders (a home game which they were actually 1.60 favourites with the bookies to win).

The Brumbies’ game plan was a simple age-old rugby strategy: territory and pressure. They played the ball deep in the opponent’s half through their kicking game (they made the second most kick metres in the comp) and then pressured the breakdown to win penalties and turnovers. And it worked. They scored a lot of points and conceded very little:

They had the fourth best attack in the competition scoring 430 points.

They had the second best defence in the competition conceding only 295 points.

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Simple, effective and classic rugby.

If you contrast the Brumbies of 2013 to the Australian Super Rugby teams of today, it is like night and day. Our teams uniformly play a game based on possession and not territory and have foregone breakdown pressure to ‘have more men in the defensive line’.

And the results… well we all just have to sit through the embarrassment of 23 losses to just two wins to the Super Rugby TT.

Matt To’omua, Scott Sio, Nic White, Ian Prior and Tevita Kuridrani. These are all players who were in that 2013 Brumbies team who are still playing in Australian Super Rugby teams.

All good senior players. I find it hard to believe that they don’t have memories of playing in a team that had such success against the Kiwis and the British and Irish Lions. Aren’t they sick of losing now? Us fans sure are.

Surely, they can see that they are playing by a completely flawed strategy and might have a word in the coach’s ear. But, not one Australian coach has noticeably changed their team’s game plan after getting thumped week in week out in TT. No breakdown pressure, no territory.

Tevita Kuridrani of the Brumbies

(Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

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Sadly too, I look at Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad and think is that a pack that can win you the ball back? No, would definitely be the answer. It is predominantly running pack. It takes a lot of two or three metre runs by a forward pack to equal a 40-metre punt to the corner.

I remember my earlier years of watching Australian rugby yelling at the TV “Don’t kick again! Just have a go!”. Now I yell “Kick the bloody thing! You are running into a brick wall!”.

When we were defending, I would say “Oh no, not another penalty! Get your hands out of the ruck” Now I yell “Get in the breakdown! The Kiwis are just gonna run in another try if you give them a free ride… oh no, is that five? five tries for Sean Wainui?”

Yep, Australian Rugby has changed pretty quickly and not for the better unfortunately. Like a lot of fans, I will continue to watch in hope for a change.

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