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Five things we learnt

Date

Paul Cully

Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs leads a team haka to celebrate winning the Super Rugby title on Saturday.

Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs leads a team haka to celebrate winning the Super Rugby title on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

The talking points from Super Rugby.

1. The player of the tournament was Aaron Cruden. The Chiefs' five-eighth finished as the competition's top points-scorer and expertly directed his side around all season. The strength of the Chiefs' coaching panel has been frequently remarked upon, but it doesn't mean a thing unless you have a navigator such as Cruden who can implement the game plans. Against the Sharks on Saturday night, he repeatedly found space with his clever short kicking game and gives the impression he always has options and time when he carries the ball to the line in both hands. Dan Carter has a challenger for his All Blacks jersey.

2. The burning issue was the Australian conference. There isn't enough talent for five healthy Australian teams at the present. That argument is best articulated by the actions of the players themselves, who are migrating away from the teams that give them little chance of winning a title or participating in a finals series. Opening the door for more foreign players has been proposed as one solution, but the quality of the imports has been an issue from day one – some have prospered, while others have added little. There will be a great deal of scrutiny on what Michael Foley can produce at the Force in the next three years. The arguments goes that a fifth team is for the national good but not one single player who will play in Perth next year has made the Wallabies squad.

3. The Australian player of the year was Will Genia. It is a measure of Genia's class that when he is not regularly putting in game-winning performances people start to quibble about his form. He carried a heavy load at the Reds this year, especially in the first part of the season when his five-eighth partners were changing every week, but he was wonderful in the later stages. The Reds will be back in 2013 – and years after that – because this little fellow is around. One of the few players New Zealanders really fear, the Wallabies' chances in the Rugby Championship will mirror Genia's form.

4. The rookie of the year was Eben Etzebeth. Even more difficult to choose than the player of the year, given the incredible range of talent across all conferences. But in ratings of difficulty, the feat achieved by Etzebeth – emerging as an enforcer at the tender age of 20 against packs laden with Springboks and All Blacks – really stood out. A long and successful Test career is ahead if the injury Gods are kind. Already, they have him in doubt for the Rugby Championship.

5. The disappointment of the year was shared between the Waratahs and the Blues. Perhaps disappointment is an inappropriate choice of word, as both have become accustomed to underachievement. Yet there was something in the scale of their respective failures that caught the eye. The Waratahs looked off the pace from the early rounds, when it became clear that had an inability or unwillingness to chance their arm in attack, especially from turnover ball. The Blues were quite simply, at times, as bad as any Super Rugby side to come out of New Zealand. Injuries played a role in both sides' campaigns, but it didn't tell the full story.

55 comments so far

  • Can't argue with any of those comments. The Tah's need someone like Grizz Wylie to give them all a good kick up the behind. Bunch of prima donna's who actually believe the pap written about them. Put yourself up to play in a Kiwi or SA team. Be like the "last-picked" kid in the schoolyard.

    Commenter
    kdog
    Location
    Bris
    Date and time
    August 07, 2012, 12:15PM
    • Blues on the other hand need, a first five, a number eight, a lineout that works as well as a pull through with a christmas tree of the off field old boys club they call their administration.

      Commenter
      stojo01
      Location
      Zeadney
      Date and time
      August 07, 2012, 1:55PM
  • Etzebeth would ave been my pick for top rookie too but Kitshoff and Tameifuna deserve honourable mention

    Commenter
    stojo01
    Location
    Zeadney
    Date and time
    August 07, 2012, 1:11PM
    • I would pick Tameifuna as the rookie - he grew as a dominant and dominating presence in the finals despite rolling around on the ground on the sideline on Saturday with a carved wooden Maori war weapon after being subbed like the 20 year old kid that he is ...

      Commenter
      chracol
      Date and time
      August 07, 2012, 4:34PM
  • All good points, a part from number two.

    Adding a fifth francise was always going to thin the talent pool. The gains though are more players are being exposed to super 15 level rugby. More players are getting starting opportunites, which adds to the depth of the australian talent pool.

    As for the Force and wallabies caps, all I am aware of is that Pocock is leaving, and Sharpe is 95% sure to retire. Can you please advise us where Richard Brown, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson, Pek Cowan and Salesi Ma'afu are headed as I am am obviously out of the loop....

    Commenter
    The TMF
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 07, 2012, 2:55PM
    • not picked this year, no room once all the Tahs had their spots sorted

      Commenter
      piru
      Location
      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      August 07, 2012, 6:01PM
  • Surely a great opportunity to entice Argentinian players out of France and into our conference and further strengthen the 4 nations?

    Commenter
    Red Heavy
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 07, 2012, 3:11PM
    • The only reason why an Argie would play here is if the money is better. Given the pay here is modest compared to France why would anyone bother. Having said that a couple of Argie Props would do wonders here at provincial level, it may even help our props get better, God Forbid. Interestingly the test series should be good as it will give our boys lots of extra scrummaging practice against high quality opposition.

      Commenter
      Lindsay
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 07, 2012, 3:58PM
    • Spot on. I've been baffled at some of the "marquee" signings from some of the Oz teams. Would be great to see another avenue for Argies to play professionally (they still can't here) apart from Europe.

      Commenter
      Shop
      Location
      Argentina
      Date and time
      August 08, 2012, 12:15AM
    • Can't imagine many international players being eager to come down here and be stuck on the bench the way Pretorius was.

      Commenter
      piru
      Location
      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      August 08, 2012, 5:08PM

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