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Five things we learnt in Super Rugby


Paul Cully

Big loss...James Horwill of the Reds.

Big loss...James Horwill of the Reds. Photo: Getty Images

1. There is no avoiding it - the Canberra game was awful. The first meaningful act was a Test winger with previous form at the judiciary tackling an opponent in the air. From the resulting penalty a Test aspirant failed to find touch. And, apart from a few flashes of quality, it was all uphill from there. There were several blatantly forward passes, players deliberately lying on the wrong side of the ruck, players lying on top of the ruck, players lying on top of each other behind play, kicks booted into touch on the full, dodgy handling, teammates colliding at the lineout, inaccurate lineout throwing, messy scrummaging, players haranguing the referee like Premier League footballers, and the targeting of lower legs without any intention of using the arms (again). It was 79 minutes and 55 seconds of joyless cynicism and inadequate skill levels in Australian rugby's biggest shop window outside the Tests, which should be enough to start a conversation about the reasons behind it.

2. Twenty minutes is a very long time on the high veldt. Even after an encouraging start that included some smart attacking play and greater commitment to the counter-ruck, there was never a sense the Waratahs were in control against the Cheetahs. With oxygen deprivation taking its toil on legs and minds, NSW were unable to find the composure to land the final blow after their handy lead had been whittled down. It was cruelly apt that Cheetahs winger Willie le Roux was their chief tormentor. The left winger has pace to burn and his second try – a chip, chase and regather – was the sort of game-winning improvisation that the Tahs have been robbed of this year with the injury to the Drew Mitchell.

3. James Horwill is as big a loss as anyone. The scoreboard favoured the Reds 10-6 after the Queensland captain left the field early in the second half, and there were a couple of incidents in the opening period that pointed to that positive influence. First, he produced some great driving defence on Nic White that led to a turnover. Later, he capitalised on another untidy Brumbies lineout to rip the ball away. The lineout has been a traditional area of excellence in Australian rugby, but Stephen Moore's throwing wobbles and Horwill's absence might pique the interest of the very tall timber among the Scottish and Welsh packs. Some of their giants stand around the 2.07m mark.

4. The net is being cast very, very wide. The inclusion of Cadeyrn Neville in the 39-man Wallabies training squad surely says more about what the selectors think is missing from the set-up – a genuine physical presence in the tight five - than his immediate readiness for Test rugby. He ticks a few boxes with that big frame but with just a few promising starts in the decidedly less confrontational Super Rugby he is firmly in the 'project' category: the combined 236kg of Neville and Hugh Pyle failed to stop Jack Lam close to the try line against the Hurricanes. On Friday they will face the overlooked Brumbies second-row pairing, who will presumably be breathing fire after being effectively rated the weakest among the Australian franchises. Jake White's motivational work has been done for him this week.

5. Motu Matu'u is a man to avoid. There have been murmurings about the legality of the Hurricanes hooker's brutal tackling style, but as long as he keeps lowering his stance and promoting his arms before he drives into his opponents he will stay on the right side of the law. He sent two Rebels – Lachlan Mitchell and Mark Gerrard - to hospital on Friday and Matt Hodgson was on the receiving end earlier in the season. Quick hands might be the best policy for the Waratahs this weekend.

28 comments so far

  • 1. The Canberra game was like watching a RWC final with both sides intent on not losing.
    2.You stayed up to watch the Waratahs??? Really???
    3.Horwill is a class act that will be hard to replace - I think your a bit harsh on Moore's throwing a few left and right. I was more concerned by Sia's throwing over the back too often.
    5.Don't really care if it's legal - two in hospital says he needs to think about what he wants to be known for in Rugby

    Date and time
    May 29, 2012, 11:29AM
    • Have to agree with you on Matu'u tackling style, leading with the head, isn't something I want to see kids emulate. Nor is it something everybody wants to watch, the game isn't about inflicting serious injury. I don't think he will last long in the game if he continues with it, just look at Polota Nau who has a similar disregard for his own well being and how easily he goes down because of a head knock.

      Date and time
      May 29, 2012, 12:36PM
    • Lachlan and Gerard for some reason both lead with their heads on these occasions - stupid. Motu'u was also down for a period after the Gerard tackle. He gets into a good tackling stance and fires from the hips like you are supposed to. Answer is to get lower I suppose, lead with the shoulder or don't run straight into him.

      Perth via Rakaia
      Date and time
      May 29, 2012, 12:36PM
    • @ PxD
      Liked your #1. Right on the money!

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 29, 2012, 8:09PM
    • @PxD and @stojo1 you guys sound like northern hemisphereans .. no one in this world intentionally leads a tackle with his head. obviously youll be on the wrong end if you do. if you didnt notice Gerrard changed direction at the last possible second which put him in line with Motu Matu'u's head. Lachlan on the other hand was a perfectly legal tackle and there is nothing wrong with being renowned for hospitalising players. it'll put him right up there as being one of the most fierce defenders and will definitely have a mental effect on opponents going up against him. That is a technique that Saia Faingaa and TPN have to look into instead of their cheap low no-arm tackles.

      Date and time
      May 30, 2012, 12:48AM
    • "Don't really care if it's legal - two in hospital says he needs to think about what he wants to be known for in Rugby"

      That statment encapsulates everything thats wrong with Australian rugby. After a season playing club rugby in Australia it was grossly apparent that the average player was smart, skilled, organised..... & soft. The islanders & kiwis I played with would simply bully any team they couldn't match in organisation & teamwork into submission.

      The Winners Circle
      Date and time
      May 30, 2012, 9:37AM
    • I don't see anything wrong with Matu'u's tackling style. It's hard and efficient. He doesn't "lead with his head", he takes a low solid stance and drives into them - And boy, does it work!
      Opposition teams will soon learn that if you have the ball and Matu'u is coming at you, GET RID OF IT!

      Jon B
      Date and time
      June 01, 2012, 2:30AM
  • Without Horwill and now Beale and with both an under-performing and/or under-played roster and limited preparation time the Wallabies are looking a touch fragile n'est pas and Scotland, let alone Wales, will be licking their lips ... as far as the backs go, Deans has a dilemma at fly-half and whichever way he goes won't give the Australian public a whole lot of confidence ... midfield looks okay - McCabe and Horne - but the back three also present the coaching staff with problems ...

    Date and time
    May 29, 2012, 11:57AM
    • @ chracol
      Suffice to say there has always been a dilemma at fly-half!
      That said, I somewhat agree with your comments as to selection under adversity for the coaching staff of the Wallabies. Thus I would always hope that Scotland and Wales would be, as you say, 'licking their lips' in anticipation of another opportunity to sack the convicts. For me that's what it is all about. Which teams brings their thing and how they do their thing is the spectacle.
      Ideally it would be just fine to have all our talent fit and on display but that's NOT going to happen this time nor most.
      Therefore it should be either a forecast disappointment of results or a little ecstasy of new found talent due to the present situation.
      Whatever, bring it on!

      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 29, 2012, 7:58PM
  • What about the loss of Kurtley Beale? The Rebels simply gave up as soon as he went of??

    Date and time
    May 29, 2012, 11:57AM

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