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Aussie Super Rugby teams showing strength and flair

Israel Folau has scored more tries per game than some rival teams this season.

Israel Folau has scored more tries per game than some rival teams this season. Photo: Getty Images

Anyone holding on to the notion that the Australian conference is weak simply has not been watching Super Rugby.

It was true in 2012, with a Waratahs outfit lacking belief and a conference groaning under the weight of two teams added in the space of five years.

This season Australian teams have met inter-conference rivals three times, resulting in a bonus-point win on all occasions. It's early days and such a statistic is no guarantee an Australian team will win the title or beat New Zealand teams more times than they lose - as was the case in 2013 - but it is a start that deserves more respect than it gets in some quarters.

It may be a surprise to some, but the fact the All Blacks proved unbeatable in 2013 does not automatically place the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises on a higher plane. Stuttering starts by supposed powerhouses from Christchurch and Wellington should dismiss those thoughts.

The attack statistics from the first four rounds make startling reading. Teams in the Australian conference average 3.15 tries a game, the Kiwis 2.08 while South African sides lag behind with 1.72. Israel Folau's five tries for the Waratahs in two games has not been bettered by 60 per cent of the teams in the other two conferences.

Of course, some of these factors may be exclusive to the Australian conference. Weaker defences and harder tracks are all possible reasons but the experiences of both the Hurricanes and Cheetahs against Australian teams suggests otherwise.

There has been a gradual evolution taking place in Australian rugby, or in the case of the Waratahs, a revolution. Last year, the Australian conference had arguably the best coaches. The presence of Jake White (Brumbies), Ewen McKenzie (Reds) and Michael Cheika (Waratahs) on the sidelines was at least a match for anything the other two conferences could offer. White (to Durban) and McKenzie (Wallabies) may have departed the Australian Super scene but their influence lives on.

If White toughened up the Brumbies and taught them to be winners again, then Cheika and McKenzie instilled an attacking intent that has filtered through to the national team.

Under new coach Stephen Larkham, the Brumbies have tweaked their game plan but still play safety-first "Jake ball". To be expected, Larkham has made some changes to reflect his own style of play. Larkham was one of the best running five-eighths the game has seen and the Brumbies now have a licence to keep the ball in hand more in their own territory and to run it if the opportunity arises. They took advantage of such an occasion against the Hurricanes on Friday night. On the stroke of halftime, the Brumbies kept possession from a restart and swept up-field resulting in Robbie Coleman's try in the corner. They took the lead and never gave it up.

Saturday night's clash between the Tahs and Brumbies reflects the two extremes of the Australian conference. It's a battle between romantic adventurism and hard-nosed pragmatism, but the Brumbies would do well to repeat the intent behind Coleman's try. Attack begets attack and the Waratahs ball-in-hand style creates opportunities for both sides to capitalise on. The Reds did that in the opening game of 2013 but forgot it a fortnight ago, choosing to hoof the ball against the Waratahs and suffering a record loss. The Brumbies should utilise the speed and elusiveness of Jesse Mogg, Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight to capitalise on the broken play opportunities.

It's a game the Brumbies need to win. Losses at home to the Reds and the Waratahs would put them behind the eight ball in their quest to top the Australian conference. Not fatal, but not good.

12 comments so far

  • Samuel.... sorry but how did I know this article was soon to appear ?

    With only three or four weeks into the Super 15 comp and we're already talkin' Aussie up. Some might say, fair enough but surely it's way too earlier for that. In essence the Aussie Super 15 has started it's campaign with largely local derbies. Mmmmm.... ?
    So therefore it's way too early to really say anything except it looks like any team on their day is capable of beating the other..... que the Force.
    Likewise, I think you got it around the wrong way with the 'battle between' the Tahs and the Brumbies.... if anything the Tahs now seem to be showing 'hard nose pragamatism' while the Brumbies could be accused of 'romantic adventurism' since the departure of coach White ?

    Come this w'end we ALL may know, having a better idea as to everything.... c'arn da Tahs !

    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    March 10, 2014, 9:02AM
    • It's a long long tough season. Best to keep ones head down at the moment.
      And if Genia does one more box kick .......I swear, despite the fact that Nick Frisby is the worst decision maker of all the halfbacks in Super Rugby, it will be time to drop Genia. The amount of games his awful, telegraphed, pedestrian box kicking is costing the teams he is playing for his unacceptable. Bring in Ben Lucas, pllleeeeaaaase

      Date and time
      March 10, 2014, 9:38AM
      • Agree with you about Genia...worse than Beale with his low percentage chip and chase...

        But I think there is room for a good deal of confidence this year though I would stop short of claiming the title for an Aussie team just yet. All the teams have shown (some only in glimpses true) better skills, a bit more depth and certainly a lot more maturity. It is probably this latter quality that is sticking out...and that is often the difference between winning the tight ones and being also rans.

        Let's hope that translates into the Wallabies as well...about time we gave the Kiwis some stick at the international level.

        Curl Curl
        Date and time
        March 10, 2014, 9:30PM
    • I must preface this comment by saying that I thought Steve Larkham was a great player and one of our very best fly-halves but, that said, he wasn't a flaky run at all costs player. In fact, onthe contrary, he loved discipline and apparently practiced moves so that they were executed to the centimetre. His flair was based on total confidence that Mortlock/Roff etc would be in exactly the place he expected to find then with his brilliant passes.

      He could run and beat people but did far less of that sort of off-the-cuff stuff once he moved from fullback. If his team reflects him it will add a lot of set-piece flair but will operate in a very similar way to the team under Jake when in tough situations - kick, kick, kick.

      Date and time
      March 10, 2014, 6:55PM
      • I totally agree with Stephen about the status of Australian teams. They had worse starts than this in previous years. I said it on this forum 4 years ago that as soon as the AUS teams grow more experienced they will be more competitive. When the NZ and SA panelists were criticizing the AUS teams on their national television programs (2008-2011) they conveniently forgot about the fact that the AUS teams were very young compared to the other two conferences. It is just a fact that teams playing together for a few years while teenagers are growing older they will get better. In 2008 it was teenagers all over the place in AUS teams, sometimes as much as 8 per squad. It was unrealistic to expect them to compete. At the moment the REDS and Brumbies still have most of their players under the age of 25 and competing very well. History shows that this is a BIG factor in the improved performances of AUS teams. What the REDS achieved with a squad with the average age of 22 in 2011 was the exception to the rule.

        Cape Town
        Date and time
        March 10, 2014, 7:33PM
        • Regarding the styles of play debate, I still think that the AUS teams (although entertaining) are playing too a risky style. The Brumbies are the closest to the ideal of striking the healthy balance between being expansive and being pragmatic (and they will win more close matches and away matches with that formula). That is the best way to put opponents under pressure and forcing them to make magic and therefore mistakes to be capiltalised upon.

          The REDS need urgent structure and a much better tactical kicking game. Teams with strong packs like the Sharks, Crusaders, Waratahs, Stormers etc. will punish them if they don't adapt. Watch this space as this is my prediction for the REDS...with their current style they will loose to these 4 teams...home and away. Their loose trio is also too weak to compete with the big ball carriers of these 4 teams.

          Cape Town
          Date and time
          March 10, 2014, 7:42PM
          • Johnny Boy , how right you are about Genia and the box kick .

            I assume the Nick Frisbie has something to do with his ability to kick the ball away to the opposition , only to see it returned in spades .

            Great name for him .

            Back with Barry
            Date and time
            March 10, 2014, 7:58PM
            • Maybe too early to tell, but I've been saying for months now that this was going to be a cracker of a season. Almost all the Aussie teams have shown far more flair than we've seen in the last few seasons, while some of the traditional NZ and SA powerhouses appear to be somewhat underdone.
              I had been hoping the Aussies would show up this season, to give my favourite Kiwi teams a run for their money, and it's turned into one of those "be careful what you ask for" moments. Now I'm just hoping the Crusaders can turn their season around!

              J B
              Date and time
              March 10, 2014, 10:34PM
              • Yous are wrong yous are negative yous are more than likely scared of your own shadows.
                2014, and the Kiwi rugby bubble has burst just like the overrated Crusaders.
                Both the Saffers and the Okkers, especially the Okkers are on the rise and all the past few years of blood sweat and experimentation will now come to fruition with the ultimate goal of the RWC in 2015 just needing a continuation of the present form .
                There can be no doubt the desire is there ,the commitment and now with the talent available and the obvious leadership in place what is there to stop Australia rising once again to claim its rightful place atop the world rugbys elite.
                Nothing except doubt and small mindedness such as is evident in these previous posts.

                Date and time
                March 11, 2014, 7:01AM
                • Your national team is still looking pretty weak, though, Sammo!
                  Australia won't make it out of pool at RWC 2015.

                  Tom Callaghan
                  Date and time
                  March 11, 2014, 9:39AM

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                  Super Rugby 2016

                  Round 1
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                  BRU 0vs HUR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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                  CHT 0vs Jagu 0 04:00FSS
                  Sunw 0vs LIO 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
                  CRU 0vs CHF 0 17:35AMI
                  WAR 0vs RED 0 19:40AS
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                  Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
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                  BRU 0vs WAR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
                  Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  CHF 0vs LIO 0 15:15FMG Stadium Waikato
                  HIG 0vs HUR 0 17:35FBS
                  RED 0vs FOR 0 19:40SS
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                  BUL 0vs REB 0 00:00Loftu
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                  Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
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                  FOR 0vs BRU 0 22:05nib Stadium
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                  HIG 0vs LIO 0 17:35FBS
                  REB 0vs RED 0 19:40AAMI
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                  King 0vs CHF 0 00:00NMBS
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                  Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  HUR 0vs FOR 0 17:35Central Energy Trust Arena
                  WAR 0vs HIG 0 19:40AS
                  Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  BUL 0vs SHA 0 04:00Loftu
                  Sunw 0vs REB 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
                  CRU 0vs King 0 17:35AMI
                  RED 0vs BLU 0 19:40SS
                  Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  LIO 0vs CHT 0 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
                  STO 0vs BRU 0 04:10DHL Newlands
                  Jagu 0vs CHF 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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                  Round 5
                  Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  HUR 0vs King 0 17:35WS
                  Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  CHF 0vs FOR 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
                  REB 0vs HIG 0 19:40AAMI
                  Sunw 0vs BUL 0 21:50Singapore National Stadium
                  Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
                  CHT 0vs BRU 0 00:00FSS
                  SHA 0vs CRU 0 02:05GpKP
                  Jagu 0vs STO 0 09:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
                  RED 0vs WAR 0 16:05SS
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                  Round 6
                  Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
                  HIG 0vs FOR 0 17:35FBS
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                  LIO 0vs CRU 0 04:00Emirates Airlines Park
                  BLU 0vs Jagu 0 17:35QBE Stadium
                  BRU 0vs CHF 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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                  King 0vs Sunw 0 02:05NMBS
                  BUL 0vs CHT 0 03:10Loftu
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                  Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
                  CHF 0vs BLU 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
                  FOR 0vs CRU 0 21:00nib Stadium
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                  STO 0vs Sunw 0 03:00DHL Newlands
                  HUR 0vs Jagu 0 17:35WS
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                  SHA 0vs LIO 0 01:05GpKP
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                  Round 8
                  Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
                  CRU 0vs Jagu 0 17:35AMI
                  REB 0vs HUR 0 19:40AAMI
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                  CHT 0vs Sunw 0 03:00FSS
                  BLU 0vs SHA 0 17:35EP
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                  Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
                  BUL 0vs RED 0 01:05Loftu
                  LIO 0vs STO 0 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
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                  Round 9
                  Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
                  HIG 0vs SHA 0 17:35FBS
                  REB 0vs CHT 0 19:40AAMI
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                  Sunw 0vs Jagu 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
                  HUR 0vs CHF 0 17:35WS
                  FOR 0vs WAR 0 19:40nib Stadium
                  STO 0vs RED 0 23:00DHL Newlands
                  Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
                  King 0vs LIO 0 01:05NMBS
                  BRU 0vs CRU 0 16:05GIO Stadium
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                  Round 10
                  Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
                  CHF 0vs SHA 0 17:35Yarro
                  FOR 0vs BUL 0 21:05nib Stadium
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                  HIG 0vs BRU 0 15:15Rugby Park
                  BLU 0vs REB 0 17:35EP
                  RED 0vs CHT 0 19:40SS
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                  LIO 0vs HUR 0 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
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                  Jagu 0vs King 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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                  Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
                  CRU 0vs RED 0 17:35AMI
                  BRU 0vs BUL 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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                  Sunw 0vs FOR 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
                  CHF 0vs HIG 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
                  WAR 0vs CHT 0 19:40AS
                  SHA 0vs HUR 0 23:00GpKP
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                  Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
                  HIG 0vs CRU 0 17:35FBS
                  REB 0vs BRU 0 19:40AAMI
                  Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
                  HUR 0vs RED 0 17:35WS
                  WAR 0vs BUL 0 19:40AS
                  Sunw 0vs STO 0 21:45Singapore National Stadium
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                  Round 13
                  Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
                  CRU 0vs WAR 0 17:35AMI
                  Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
                  RED 0vs Sunw 0 15:05SS
                  CHF 0vs REB 0 17:35FMG Stadium Waikato
                  FOR 0vs BLU 0 19:40nib Stadium
                  LIO 0vs Jagu 0 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
                  Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
                  SHA 0vs King 0 01:05GpKP
                  BUL 0vs STO 0 03:10Loftu
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                  Round 14
                  Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
                  HUR 0vs HIG 0 17:35WS
                  WAR 0vs CHF 0 19:40AS
                  Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
                  King 0vs Jagu 0 03:00NMBS
                  BLU 0vs CRU 0 17:35EP
                  BRU 0vs Sunw 0 19:40GIO Stadium
                  STO 0vs CHT 0 23:00DHL Newlands
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                  BUL 0vs LIO 0 01:05Loftu
                  REB 0vs FOR 0 16:05AAMI
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                  Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
                  CHF 0vs CRU 0 17:35ANZ National Stadium, Suva
                  BRU 0vs RED 0 19:40GIO Stadium
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                  Sunw 0vs WAR 0 15:15Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
                  HUR 0vs BLU 0 17:35WS
                  REB 0vs STO 0 19:40AAMI
                  CHT 0vs FOR 0 23:00FSS
                  Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
                  LIO 0vs SHA 0 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
                  King 0vs HIG 0 03:10NMBS
                  Jagu 0vs BUL 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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                  Round 16
                  Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
                  BLU 0vs BRU 0 17:35EP
                  RED 0vs CHF 0 19:40SS
                  Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
                  LIO 0vs King 0 03:00Emirates Airlines Park
                  CRU 0vs REB 0 17:35AMI
                  WAR 0vs HUR 0 19:40AS
                  FOR 0vs STO 0 21:45nib Stadium
                  Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
                  BUL 0vs Sunw 0 01:05Loftu
                  SHA 0vs CHT 0 03:10GpKP
                  Jagu 0vs HIG 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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                  Round 17
                  Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
                  BLU 0vs WAR 0 17:35EP
                  RED 0vs REB 0 19:40SS
                  Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
                  SHA 0vs Sunw 0 03:00GpKP
                  CRU 0vs HUR 0 15:15AMI
                  HIG 0vs CHF 0 17:35FBS
                  BRU 0vs FOR 0 19:40GIO Stadium
                  Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
                  STO 0vs King 0 01:05DHL Newlands
                  CHT 0vs BUL 0 03:10FSS
                  Jagu 0vs LIO 0 07:00Estadio Jose Amalfitani
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                  Round 18
                  Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
                  TBC 0vs TBC 0 09:00
                  TBC 0vs TBC 0 09:00
                  Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
                  TBC 0vs TBC 0 09:00
                  TBC 0vs TBC 0 09:00
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                  Super Rugby 2016
                  Overall standings
                  Team P W L D +/- Pts
                  Blues 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Waratahs 0 0 0 0 0 0
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                  Super Rugby 2016
                  Overall standings
                  Team P W L D +/- Pts
                  Brumbies 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Chiefs 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Crusaders 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Force 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Highlanders 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Hurricanes 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Rebels 0 0 0 0 0 0
                  Reds 0 0 0 0 0 0
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