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Brumbies sitting high on the ladder to success

Date

John Eales

Zack Holmes of the Brumbies breaks the Waratahs defensive line on Saturday night.

Zack Holmes of the Brumbies breaks the Waratahs defensive line on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images

Australia's top seed going into the Super Rugby finals, and perhaps our only seed, will probably be the Brumbies.

It will definitely be the Brumbies if they score a bonus point (extremely likely, as they have gained at least a point from every match this year) against the Blues, or if the Queensland Reds lose against the NSW Waratahs in the final round.

But although they sit in an enviable position, their win-loss record against other finalists is poor and that is not a good omen for further honours.

There are two anomalies in the Super Rugby draw which are both celebrated and castigated. One is that each team will play only four of the five teams from each of the other two conferences, and the other is that teams play each of the franchises in their own conference on a home and away basis.

The local derbies are hailed for the greater television audience and spectators they capture and therefore revenue they generate, but harpooned as they are seen as facilitating an easier path to the play-offs for teams in a weaker conference.

Both are valid arguments but might not hold sway as, when pushed, a conference may not cede significant revenue for on-field parity.

The more frustrating anomaly, and one which would require only two extra weeks of competition to remedy, is that each team will not play one of the teams from each of the other conferences.

There will always be arguments to and fro about the fairness and appropriateness of such a system but it is inarguable that teams can be either lucky or unlucky with their draw.

And you might not know how lucky or unlucky until the form of the various teams plays out.

For example, few would have anticipated the Waratahs and the Blues to be in the bottom third of the table and the Brumbies to be among the top three sides.

Scratch beneath the surface and one can deduce that the Brumbies have been the beneficiary of a charmed draw in not playing either the Crusaders or the Stormers, both top four teams on the ladder. But by the same token no side has enjoyed an easy victory against them. In fact, of their five losses, the two biggest have been by seven points to the Chiefs and Reds respectively.

That's a respectable counterpoint to anyone who argues they only sit atop the Australian conference because they have been on luck's better side. What goes against them at the business end, however, is their poor record over other sides in the top eight, having played six matches for just one win (that is fewer matches than all other contenders except the Hurricanes who play the Chiefs next week and move to seven).

The Stormers and Chiefs, on the other hand, have both played seven games against other top-eight sides and have each won five of those matches.

While the Reds have won only three of their seven top-eight contests this season, last year, when they won the championship, they beat every other team in the top six in their regular season fixtures. The confidence gained from those victories proved significant in their championship tilt.

In the context of the draw, the Highlanders, a side with some similar unfashionable personality traits to the Brumbies in that they are not imbued with internationals, have most reason to feel aggrieved.

They have drawn every team in the top eight and not the Force (14th) or the Lions (15th). From their 11 matches against top-eight opponents, they won only four but beat every other team they played. Other interesting vagaries are that the Reds and the Bulls drew every other team in the top six and the Hurricanes played neither the Reds nor the Bulls.

Also, and perhaps quite significantly, of the other top four teams, the Stormers didn't play the Chiefs or the Brumbies, the Crusaders didn't play the Brumbies or the Sharks (sixth), and the Chiefs didn't play the Stormers or the Rebels (12th).

The Chiefs aside – as they missed relatively easy points against the Rebels – it is inarguable that bypassing each other in the draw has significantly facilitated the top four table positions.

But ultimately, no matter the postulations, you can only be held accountable for performing against the team that pulls on their boots against you and the Brumbies have fronted up consistently all season.

Again on Saturday night against the Waratahs they triumphed, for only the second time in Sydney in 16 years, and they did so with more confidence than they had either possession or territory.

And though tactics are typically more dangerous through subterfuge rather than certainty, the Brumbies demonstrated again that simple strategy, when laced with pace and purpose, can be equally difficult to counter.

Outside of their position on the ladder, there may have been few surprises in the Brumbies bag of tricks, but that's not to say that they haven't the capacity to startle some big names over the next few weeks.

13 comments so far

  • Absolutely spot on John! An extra two weeks - bring it on! But honestly, these home derbies are quite tedious... Rebels V Lions was a much more entertaining game than the over-hyped Brumbies-Waratahs, especially as everything possible was done to ensure that there would be ZERO atmosphere at the game by holding it at ANZ Stadium.

    Commenter
    ally
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    July 09, 2012, 12:41AM
    • Too confusing John, my head's hurting.
      You don't have to need All Bran to eat All Bran........

      Commenter
      Ideas Man
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 09, 2012, 11:49AM
      • I want some opinions on this: Australias top teams had the cream run to make finals with having to play struggling aussie teams twice, the likes of the force (woeful), rebles (can only win at home occasionally, also woeful) and the waratahs underacheivers. Still it looks like only one australain team will make the finals! Is it just me or are the media missing something...Australain teams are hugely underperforming this year! I dont think the brumbies would have made finals had they been in either a south african or nz pool. Phil kerns and the fox footy team discussed how the aussie local derby's were less of a specticle compared to the free flowing beautiful rugby being played accross the ditch, the excuse was that australian team are playing not to lose, and the nz teams playing to win...ahhh yeah nice one, keep telling yourself that. Watching australian local derbys has been like watching super 15 B-grade, c grade if talking about some aussie teams. Disagree all you like but you will just pulling the wool over your own eyes.

        Commenter
        Rugga head
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        July 09, 2012, 1:18PM
        • Good on you for writing about this "frustrating anomaly", John.

          Having teams play their conference-mates twice is one thing. It will never be entirely fair across the three countries but I don't think it makes a massive difference. But plucking two teams from the list at random to not play at all - that's insane. They've already scheduled a mid-season break for internationals, why NOT add those extra two rounds so everyone plays everyone else at least once?

          Commenter
          The Claw
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          July 09, 2012, 1:39PM
          • Local derbies are boring, especially in Australia.

            Commenter
            Simple
            Date and time
            July 09, 2012, 3:51PM
            • If you want the Ausrtralian teams to be more competitive then get rid of at least one team. With a smaller player pool and competition from other codes we are just spreding our talent too thin (yes the reds won last year but this year the mix of top line players has been dispersed much more widely over all Aussie teams).

              Commenter
              donhenley
              Date and time
              July 09, 2012, 3:58PM
              • False economy mate, you cut the available positions by a fifth and end up having no developing talent coming through.

                Why not just have one franchise, they'd be way strong!

                Commenter
                piru
                Location
                Perth via Rakaia
                Date and time
                July 09, 2012, 7:02PM
              • Mate the sensible thing to do, here in Australia,is to decide whether you want to play in a international competition,or play the other game's,which some people think that, are fantastic,and have NO international significance. We have here in Australia about five times the population of N.Z., so there is no need to say the other sports take away the required talent. It happens in all countries,and all sports.So if you want to play in an international competition,then play the games that are internationally accepted.

                Commenter
                Muzzo
                Location
                Orange
                Date and time
                July 11, 2012, 7:43AM
            • Without the conference system NSW may have been lapped even worse than they have been. The 'tahs have only beaten 3 teams in their 4 wins this year. The Rebels twice, the Force once, and the Sharks at the SFS. This is a team that had 9 wallabies in the last Test squad. Hopeless any way you cut it.

              Commenter
              The Facts Man
              Location
              The putting green
              Date and time
              July 09, 2012, 3:58PM
              • The other anomaly not mentioned is the bye rounds, why have a bye at the end or beginning of a competition, those teams are disserviced, surely it would be better served to have a split round where half the teams have a bye in succesive weekends, like the AFL. Then given the split round due to internationals now introduced, maybe you only need one bye split round and introduce the missing two teams only adds one more weekend to a fairer competition. BUT we must retain the home and away local deries, they do add value to the whole competition and more importantly are bringing back the fan passion that i believe has been missing, at least to some teams.

                Commenter
                kiwi in dubai
                Date and time
                July 09, 2012, 5:40PM

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