OPINION

Blues centre Ma'a Nonu's tackling of Digby Ioane on Friday night is evidence that the Auckland side plays with passion.

Blues centre Ma'a Nonu's tackling of Digby Ioane on Friday night is evidence that the Auckland side plays with passion. Photo: Getty Images

When teams glow they combine high energy and efficiency, and both are equally important. It was just that combination which sparked the Reds championship last year and which has likewise shot the Brumbies to the top of the Australian rugby union conference this year. The Crusaders have ever been masters of both.

And it is both, not just one or the other, which are required. Great performances are too often passed off as the result of passion, and conversely, losses, as the lack of it.

Nothing offends a player more than when people infer they lack passion. I was involved in a lot of poor team performances but they were usually because we weren't good enough, not because we lacked passion. Passion is crucial, undoubtedly, but I don't believe it to be the differentiator as often as it is credited.

Take the Auckland Blues for example, losers for the seventh time on the weekend to Queensland's Reds. They have a formidable roster packed with stars such as Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Ali Williams, Rene Ranger et al, but their inefficiency thwarts their momentum. Their performances suggest they clock on with the whitecollar workers and clock off with the tradies and shirk a full day's work, but in reality they lack proficiency, not passion. You can read the pain from the strain in their eyes as you could feel the power in some of Nonu's hits on Digby Ioane in the first half. Efficiency is their remedy.

The Brumbies are the exemplar at the moment as they revel in the relevance of form and fly in the face of reputation. Their energy is incandescent and it is enhanced by their efficiency. Key to their efficiency is their decision making, which is always better facilitated by good instruction. There is no doubt coach Jake White is boss at their franchise but he has some good lieutenants in Laurie Fisher, Stephen Larkham and George Gregan.

After his sojourns to France and Japan, having Gregan back in Australian rugby is brilliant. This week he joined the ARU board as the players' rep, but his involvement with the Brumbies halves is just as exciting as he was one of the most intelligent playmakers to have played the game.

Involving Australia's brightest contemporary rugby minds in the development of fresh talent is crucial for our success. And that doesn't just include past great players because the transition from player to coach is not necessarily natural; some of the greatest players have made average coaches and some of the greatest coaches were only ever average players.

I cannot comment on Fisher's playing career but he is considered among the most astute instructors of the breakdown and of contact and it is precision in those disciplines which is serving the Brumbies well.

In their victory over the Lions, their precision at the breakdown sealed their destiny. It wasn't about numbers as much as it was about accuracy. So often they would secure the contact with one, two or three players, allowing the others to prepare for the next stage of play.

The result was that what seemed opportunistic tries were actually well constructed.

In their victory over the Blues, the Reds began to again demonstrate the precision that delivered them the title last year. It helps when you can reintroduce some of the candidates who had perfected their roles previously. In a bittersweet irony, however, it seemed Will Genia, among the Reds' best on the night, had already made his decision to defect to the Force. The regular transit between Queensland and WA since 2006 could justify the Reds and the Force employing a shared service relocation consultant.

As with former Force coach Richard Graham's move east last week, while it may be advantageous for the individual, it's a kick in the guts for fans – one they shouldn't have to endure mid-season.

Soon after the news about Genia went mainstream on Sunday, I was grabbed by a disillusioned supporter who sang the chorus of many. “This timing not only disengages us fans but it derails all the hard work of their own teams over the last 12 months. I don't blame Genia or Graham, I don't know who to blame, I just don't like it.”

It certainly took the gloss off his weekend.