Monday’s Rugby News looks at the results from the latest round of Super Rugby, the Aussies lighting up Los Angeles, Pete Samu’s quest for a recall and the Wallabies targeting Dan McKellar
Super Rugby recap
Round five of the Super Rugby season threw up a plethora of upsets and close encounters as the Australian resurgence continued.
The round started in the land of the students as the Rebels travelled to Otago to take on the Highlanders. Not even the most die-heart Victorian rugby fan could’ve expected what transpired in the first 20 minutes, with the Rebels racing out to a 21-0 lead.
Whilst the Highlanders would control the second half, Dave Wessels’ side would repel their attacks, securing a 28-22 win, the first time that an Australian side has won in Dunedin since 2014.
Following this, the action headed out to Bankwest Stadium, where Waratahs fans were praying that the recent run of good form for Australia sides could continue against the Lions. Fortunately, they played like a completely rejuvenated team since their bye, indoctrinating the new ground with the joys of running rugby as they ran in six tries in the 29-17 win.
To open Saturday, the Hurricanes would host the Sunwolves, who have now been handed nomadic status as a result of the coronavirus. Whilst they would briefly lead the 2016 champions, they were no match for the dominant Hurricanes, who scored 10 tries to secure a 62-15 win.
This was followed by the Reds, who were looking to make it three from three for Australian sides as they hosted the Sharks. The elusive 100% success rate looked promising in the first half as the Reds took a 11-8 lead into the break. However, it was not meant to be as the Sharks bullied the home side to take the contest 33-23.
The biggest surprise of the round came in Cape Town, where the previously undefeated Stormers lost their first game of the season against the Blues. The Auckland boys lit up the ladder leaders in the first 25 minutes, racing out to a 20 point lead. Despite facing some resistance towards their back end of the first half, the Blues controlled the rest of the game as they cruised to a 33-14 win.
Finally, the Jaguares continued to put pressure on the South African conference, overcoming the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. The Argentinians would control the set pieces, with a double to Emiliano Boffelli ensuring that they came out victors 39-24.
Sevens shine in La-La Land
The Australian men’s sevens side have taken Los Angeles by storm, cruising through the opening day of the LA Sevens undefeated.
They would get to the perfect start, piling on 31 unanswered points to smash Scotland 31-7. The Scots looked like Fords v Ferrari trying to tackle Australia’s speedsters, with ‘Rocket’ Rod Davies running in a double and converted sprint star Trae Williams impersonating an energised (JoJo) Rabbit in defence and attack.
Following this was a date with Samoa, who were somewhat of a Parasite for the Aussies towards the end of 2019, having nearly ended their Olympic dreams before knocking them out in the Dubai Sevens.
However, Tim Walsh’s men proved that they were no Joke(r), securing their spot in the quarter-finals with a dominant 31-5 win.
However, the toughest task was yet to come against the home side, the USA, who Once Upon A Time humiliated them after a thumping 43-7 defeat ended their dreams of victory at the Sydney Sevens.
Despite this, the Aussies hung tough, with three tries within the space of 4 minutes stunning the home crowd to secure the top of the pool with a 17-7 victory.
Aussie captain Nick Malouf admitted that they were pleased to get the upset win, gaining some much needed revenge.
“Yeah we got our pants pulled down by the USA on our home turf and that hurt us a fair bit, so there massive motivation for us to come out here and reciprocate that,” he said post-match.
“I know what it felt like when my family and friends and my fiancee were there to watch us get smoked, it hurt.
“We wanted to put on a clinical performance in all the games today and I think we did that.”
They will now go into the quarterfinals full of confidence, with Australia set to face off in the early hours of Monday (5:05 am AEDT) against The Irishman (If you wondering, yes I really went through all that effort of working in movies/Oscars puns throughout this piece just to set up this line.)
Samu eager for clean slate
The appointment of Dave Rennie and the new coaching staff has seemingly provided a clean slate for the Wallabies, particular for those who may feel slighted by the previous coaches.
And no one is more pleased with this than Brumbies backrower Pete Samu, who believes that it has added extra significance to the Super Rugby season.
Samu was one of the most controversial omissions from the World Cup squad, with the tucked in terror amongst the best for the Brumbies over the past two seasons.
After speaking to Rennie in January, he believes that the selection policy for the upcoming July series will be purely on form.
“I try not to focus too far ahead but it’s obviously a change of the guards and that’s a positive for young boys coming through as well,” he said.
“There’s a lot of boys putting their hands up for selection, so we have to control what we can let them do their work upstairs.
“I think there’s big opportunities for a lot of boys in the country.
“We had Dave Rennie come over and have a chat and he’s going to pick on form and that’s what the boys want…that’ll obviously be a big positive.”
Despite this, the 28-year-old’s main focus is on keeping the Brumbies’ impressive 2020 run going, with the ACT side on top of the Australian conference.
“It’s still early in the season, trying to take it week by week and go out there and enjoy playing footy alongside some of my good mates and trying to get a result as well,” he said.
“I’m trying not to let (Wallabies) get in the way of doing my job for the team, that comes first and foremost.”
He believes their success has come as a result of the tight-knit bond that the squad has formed both on and off the field.
“I think the boys expressing themselves, the boys have had a big and tough preseason and I’ve always said that the time we’ve spent, the enjoyment we’ve had off the field builds the chemistry,” he believes.
Dan is Rennie’s man
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has been headhunted for the Wallabies coaching staff, earmarked as their new forwards coach, with a view towards making him the eventually head coach.
The approach to McKellar was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, with Rennie and RA director of rugby Scott Johnson reportedly making contact with the 43-year-old about his interest in the role.
Sources close the SMH have suggested Johnson has pitched McKellar with a plan to serve his apprenticeship under Rennie before taking over as Wallabies coach after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The news of this approach would’ve sent Brumbies fans into a cold shiver, still haunted by the poaching of club legend Stephen Larkham for a similar role before he was told to walk the plank to Europe.
Despite this, McKellar has made it crystal clear that he is completely focused on the Brumbies position, believing that their discussions had been blown out of proportion.
“My focus is 100 per cent at the Brumbies,” McKellar said.
“That story that came out was a bit of speculation at the moment. The Wallabies and Rugby Australia are looking for a forwards coach, they’ve got a number of candidates they’ll talk to and they asked me if it would be of interest down the track.
“…It’s a national program, it’s the Wallabies and I’ve said many times before players and coaches are the same in terms of [international] aspirations.
“It’s an honour to be even considered in those conversations. But, as I said, at the moment it was a brief conversation and I think the headlines and media might have blown it out of proportion.”
Along with McKellar, Rugby Australia has reportedly approached his assistant Laurie Fisher to see if he wants to cast his line somewhere, along with former Reds coach Nick Stiles, which seems unlikely considering he has just re-signed with Japanese club Kintetsu Liners.