JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Conference call: closeness a sign of competition's growing strength

Date

Ewen McKenzie

Glass is half full .. the tightness of the Australian conference is a sign of strength, not mediocrity.

Glass is half full .. the tightness of the Australian conference is a sign of strength, not mediocrity. Photo: Getty Images

I was asked on New Zealand radio yesterday about the relative strength of the Australian conference compared to the rest. Everyone has their thoughts but I have found this year's competition to be one of the tightest in memory and this is more of a reflection on the strength of play from all teams as opposed to any perceived weaknesses.

It's also difficult to compare the conferences because at this point there have been vast differences in each team's campaigns - and this has a direct impact on the perception of progress.

Use the Queensland Reds, for example. At this point we have not played any New Zealand sides and we have played five of our eight matches against Australian opposition. We have also finished the major parts of our travel to South Africa and Perth, all with an unusually high injury toll.

On the other hand the Brumbies, who are now in South Africa, have played only three of their eight derby matches, and are still required to play us again and the Waratahs twice. The conference situation could still change dramatically.

The example above isn't to discredit the Brumbies achievements but to point out that drawing too many conclusions based on ladder position at the halfway mark of the season can be dangerous.

In fact it's worth noting to all the critics just how well the Brumbies are faring. They have played some strong rugby. Everyone loves a surprise and they are doing really well. Their efforts are similar to our run last season.

Contrary to popular opinion, there are a bunch of teams who have improved greatly. If we listened to the naysayers then the Chiefs, Highlanders and even Cheetahs shouldn't be in the positions they are. However, it's clear these three teams have been doing some great work and are stepping up to the standard of the traditionally strong teams such as the Bulls, Stormers and Crusaders.

In the past, each conference has always included two or three very strong teams while the rest have been playing catch-up. The positive news for the competition is that some of those teams have caught up and it's making each game interesting and unpredictable. This is great for fans.

This week we take on the Blues. We have a 4-4 win-loss record while they are sitting 1-7. If you looked at each team's preseason lists you may have predicted that both would be in a better position, but it's a reflection on where the competition sits. Tomorrow night will be crucial for both teams, and like us, they will be focused more on the possibilities ahead rather than looking back.

When you have a bunch of good players everyone knows it's only a matter of time before they ''click''. Going to Eden Park to play a wounded Blues team is never an enviable task and I have been around long enough to know the enormity of the challenge we face.

For us the match has a finals feel to it and you should expect there to be some desperation on display as proud players try to keep their season on track. One thing I know is that as both teams progress to the later stages of the season, there won't be many teams that will not be a little nervous about playing us. Our best rugby is yet to be seen.

The history of Super Rugby shows that every team has struggled at some point - even the Crusaders. There are always reasons behind this but if history has told us anything it's to analyse and judge what happens in the long term before being too critical.

Our competition is now long enough for teams to find form, get injured players back, and I think that makes for an exciting finish to an exciting season. Maybe we should examine the relative strengths of the conferences when the round robin stages are finished playing out - I think there are a few twists and turns to go.

44 comments so far

  • Could this season see the sham of the conference system exposed by a 7th place team making the playoffs due to being top of their conference?

    I can easily see the legitimate top 6 being 3 New Zealand and 3 South African teams, with one of them being bumped to make room for a lower-placed Australian team.

    Commenter
    The Claw
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 9:20AM
    • Agreed.... The conference system is a sham & I've thought so from day 1.The 6 best teams should make the final regardless of where they're based.

      If they must insist on this set up at least reduce it to 2 mixed conferences & drop the guranteed finals spots for each country.

      Commenter
      Camomatic
      Location
      The Winners Circle
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 11:38PM
  • We are clearly the weakest conference this year but this is still the right system. You also need to remember that we have 2 relatively new franchises who are still relying on poaching B grade players from Sydney and Brisbane club comps to make up numbers, so it will take years for them to get the right support structures to become dominant.

    Commenter
    Dan
    Location
    Nth Sydney
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 9:49AM
    • It is a shame there isn't another tier in Oz rugby so these "B" players would already have been exposed to better competition. Sydney and Brisbane club versus NPC and Currie Cup just isn't a comparison.

      Commenter
      Shop
      Location
      Argentina
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 10:21AM
    • I wouldn't call the Shute Shield B grade...it's more about selecting the right players than not having another tier

      Commenter
      Phil
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 12:51PM
    • @Phil

      I didn't say the Shute Shield was B grade and there is obviously plenty of talent to be found. However if the top players were selected from all comps plus those that don't make the Wallabies squad played against each other on a regular basis, don't you think it would make it easier to slot into Super rugby?

      The APC should at least have been given a fair go instead of being brought down after just one year by club interests. Ultimately it has put Oz rugby back years.

      Commenter
      Shop
      Location
      Argentina
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 1:36PM
    • The Shute Shield also does nothing to grow the sport in the areas it needs growing for it to be able to feed and sustain the expansion teams. Without a national competition below Super rugby that also contains teams from both Victoria & WA those franchises will never be able to stand alone in their own right and develop their own players without NSW & QLD providing the vast bulk of their cattle.

      Commenter
      Jaime
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 5:58PM
    • @Shop I was replying to Paul's comment, My comment just appears under yours.

      I still think that the great thing about club rugby (at least in Sydney as it's the only one available to me to watch) is that it is an exciting blend of Super rugby players or fringe players, experienced club players and talented youth and it has proven to provide heaps of players to Super rugby, the majority of which have done extremely well e.g. Dave Harvey, Scott Fardy, Hugh Pyle, Bernard Foley.
      I think the ARC was great rugby, but I still think Club Rugby has and will provide that same level of rugby and the key element is having the best recruiters and selectors that can see the right players for Super rugby. Plus the Sydney Rugby Union has introduced some rep games to give more opportunties to players to showcase their talents in a selective group of the best club rugby players.
      I'd prefer to see a reworked national comp where the best club teams from each state play eachother.

      Commenter
      Phil
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 5:01PM
    • @Phil

      I like the idea of more rep rugby. I also want to see a national comp somehow reworked. I suppose the real issue is preparing players for the Super level which club rugby in its current form doesn't do nearly well enough.

      Commenter
      Shop
      Location
      Argentina
      Date and time
      April 28, 2012, 10:52AM
  • The Claw, let me guess, another bitter kiwi who can't stand living in NZ . Are there any lemons left in NZ ?

    Commenter
    johnny-boy
    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 9:58AM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    Rugby Internationals 2014

    Round 1
    Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
    CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
    BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
    Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
    LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
    BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
    Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
    SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
    BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
    WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
    CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
    REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
    Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
    BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
    HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
    RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
    Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
    STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
    SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
    HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
    FOR vs HUR 22:00nib Stadium
    Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
    CHT vs BLU 04:10FSS
    CHF vs CRU 17:35WS
    REB vs BRU 19:40AAMI
    Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
    BUL vs SHA 02:05Loftus Versfeld
    LIO vs STO 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
    BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
    Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
    BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
    RED vs WAR 19:40SS
    Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
    STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
    HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
    FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
    Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
    HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
    RED vs BRU 19:40SS
    Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
    STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
    CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 6
    Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
    HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
    REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
    Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
    Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
    BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
    SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
    WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
    HUR vs REB 17:35WS
    RED vs LIO 20:00SS
    Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
    CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
    HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
    WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
    Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
    SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
    BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
    View All Fixtures
    Round 8
    Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
    HUR vs STO 18:35WS
    REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
    Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
    BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
    Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
    SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
    LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
    Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
    WAR vs STO 20:40AS
    FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
    Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
    LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
    Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
    HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
    HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
    BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
    FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
    Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
    CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
    BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
    Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
    WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
    Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
    STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
    RED vs HUR 17:05SS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
    BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
    Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
    HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
    REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
    Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
    BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
    REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
    Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
    FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
    Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
    STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
    RED vs REB 20:40SS
    Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
    WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
    Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
    CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
    RED vs SHA 20:40SS
    Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
    WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
    FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
    Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
    STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
    BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
    HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
    FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
    LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
    FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
    BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
    RED vs CHF 20:40SS
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
    STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
    REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
    CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
    WAR vs RED 20:40AS
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
    SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    7 vs 7 10:00
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    7 vs 7 10:00
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    7 vs 7 10:00
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    7 vs 7 10:00
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    7 vs 7 10:00
    View All Fixtures
    Rugby Internationals 2014
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D +/- Pts
    Brumbies 2 1 1 0 42 6
    Hurricanes 2 2 0 0 18 8
    Stormers 2 2 0 0 23 8
    Chiefs 2 2 0 0 7 8
    Rebels 2 1 1 0 0 5
    Sharks 2 1 1 0 11 6
    Cheetahs 1 1 0 0 6 5
    Force 2 1 1 0 0 5
    View all
     
    Featured advertisers