Super Champions - which team was best - Green and Gold Rugby
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Super Champions – which team was best

Super Champions – which team was best

super championsHave you ever contemplated who was the better team out of our three most recent Champion Super Rugby teams? I certainly haven’t, but there are some loonies lurking in the shadows of Green and Gold Rugby who not only think the ’11 Reds or ’14 Waratahs could match it with the ’04 Brumbies, but were better sides! The debate is on like Donkey Kong, or Samo as he liked being called.


Firstly we have me, Bobas, on the affirmative Brumby side of the debate, the intellectual angle. Secondly, Rugby Reg, who I’ve been informed has tested negative yet again for albinism valiantly arguing the Reds case. And last but not least, Braveheart81 who is going to let loose with one of Cheik’s golf clubs on the Brumbies and Reds as he argues the case for the ’14 Waratahs.

Super Rugby Championship Teams

They all played the Crusaders at their respective home grounds, but for the sake of our debate, we only have at our disposal the players that took the field on those fateful days. We’re also debating In chronological order so I (Bobas) won’t get to respond to Reg’s arguments, and so on.

’04 Brumbies ’11 Reds ’14 Waratahs
15     Joe Roff
14     Clyde Rathbone
13     Joel Wilson
12     Matt Giteau
11     Mark Gerrard
10     Stephen Larkham
9     George Gregan
8     Scott Fava
7     George Smith
6     Owen Finegan (c)
5     Radike Samo
4     Mark Chisholm
3     Nic Henderson
2     Jeremy Paul
1     Bill Young
16     David Palavi
17     Guy Shepherdson
18     David Giffin
19     Jone Tawake
20     Matt Henjak
21     Mark Bartholomeusz
22     Lenny Beckett
15     Jono Lance
14     Rodney Davies
13     Anthony Fainga’a
12     Ben Tapuai
11     Digby Ioane
10     Quade Cooper
9     Will Genia (vc)
8     Radike Samo
7     Beau Robinson
6     Scott Higginbotham
5     James Horwill (c)
4     Rob Simmons
3     Greg Holmes
2     Saia Fainga’a
1     Ben Daley
16     James Hanson
17     Guy Shepherdson
18     Adam Wallace-Harrison
19     Jake Schatz
20     Liam Gill
21     Ian Prior
22     Will Chambers
15     Israel Folau
14     Alofa Alofa
13     Adam Ashley-Cooper
12     Kurtley Beale
11     Rob Horne
10     Bernard Foley
9     Nick Phipps
8     Wycliff Palu
7     Michael Hooper (c)
6     Stephen Hoiles
5     Jacques Potgieter
4     Kane Douglas
3     Sekope Kepu
2     Tatafu Polota-Nau
1     Benn Robinson
16     Tolu Latu
17     Jeremy Tilse
18     Paddy Ryan
19     Will Skelton
20     Mitchell Chapman
21     Pat McCutcheon
22     Brendan McKibbin
23     Peter Betham
’04 Crusaders  ’11 Crusaders ’14 Crusaders
15     Ben Blair
14     Marika Vunibaka
13     Aaron Mauger
12     Dan Carter
11     Caleb Ralph
10     Cameron McIntyre
9     Justin Marshall
8     Sam Broomhall
7     Richie McCaw
6     Reuben Thorne (c)
5     Chris Jack
4     Brad Thorn
3     Greg Somerville
2     Tone Kopelani
1     David Hewett
16     Corey Flynn
17     Chris King
18     Ross Filipo
19     Johnny Leo’o
20     Jamie Nutbrown
21     Andrew Mehrtens
22     Casey Laulala
15     Tom Marshall
14     Sean Maitland
13     Robbie Fruean
12     Sonny Bill Williams
11     Zac Guildford
10     Dan Carter
9     Andrew Ellis
8     Kieran Read
7     Richie McCaw (c)
6     George Whitelock
5     Sam Whitelock
4     Brad Thorn
3     Owen Franks
2     Corey Flynn
1     Wyatt Crockett
16     Quentin MacDonald
17     Ben Franks
18     Luke Romano
19     Matt Todd
20     Kahn Fotuali’i
21     Matt Berquist
22     Ryan Crotty
15     Israel Dagg
14     Kieron Fonotia
13     Ryan Crotty
12     Dan Carter
11     Nemani Nadolo
10     Colin Slade
9     Andrew Ellis
8     Kieran Read (c)
7     Matt Todd
6     Richie McCaw
5     Sam Whitelock
4     Dominic Bird
3     Owen Franks
2     Corey Flynn
1     Wyatt Crockett
16     Ben Funnell
17     Joe Moody
18     Nepo Laulala
19     Jimmy Tupou
20     Jordan Taufua
21     Willi Heinz
22     Tom Taylor
23     Johnny McNicholl

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  • Slim 293

    How about the 2001 Brumbies?

    • Braveheart81

      Bobas was probably still in primary school then. He’s the Brumbies fan (and creator of the article) so he got to choose what he wrote about.

      • Bobas

        How very dare you, I’ll have you know I graduated primary school in 99.

    • Bobas

      Have you ever contemplated who was the better team out of our three most recent Champion Super Rugby teams? – was the opening line.
      The 2001 Brumbies were no longer in our three most recent champion super rugby teams after 2014 turned out to for once actually be the year of the Tah.

  • Willus

    Whilst I do agree with the points regarding the ’11 Crusaders and their class/line-up, the travel factor that forced them around is something hard to over look. The Reds line-up definitely does stand out bar maybe two or three players.

    • Pedro

      Watchu talkin’ ’bout?

  • sampro

    The only reason the Foley kick went over was because one end of the stadium sucked while the other end blew.

    • Bobas

      That would have taken some organising, but it is true most tah supporters either suck or blow.

      • sampro

        Yep, was going for the triple entendre there haha

  • brumby runner

    What an idle piece of nonsense. But I voted ;-)

    • Bobas

      which part? the team tables are very accurate

      • brumby runner

        Trying to compare players of different years and times, just like comparing cricketers over the ages. That’s the idle part imo. Some individuals are standouts and we can confidently say were the best in their position or skill, like Bradman and Warne. From the three SR winners, the only players I would categorise as best ever for Australia are George Smith and Bernie Larkham. Gregan at his best would go close to rating as the best also. Very hard to draw any other kind of comparisons.

  • GavinHealy

    From the Aussie teams I am biased towards Waratahs and the final was epic. I think, however, the Reds were the only one of the teams above who swashbuckled their way to the title. The moment a “golden generation” of players came together at their best and perfectly suited to McKenzie’s management. All were deserving winners, perhaps the Reds the most memorable over the year they won it.

    I’d give my nod to the Reds for that reason.

    Considering all teams, would nod to the Crusaders in 11. Only came to Aus in ’09 so can’t really comment on previous years

  • Brendan Hume

    The Reds are all – bar two – Wallabies. The way that the team nuanced it’s game throughout the season certainly added a new dimension to the game. The Waratahs were not able to have that same level (and didn’t aspire to it) of fine tuning with their game and basically barrelled their way to the title. The Brumbies were ending an era of high performance with some innovative coaches and some of the best Aussie players to pull on the boots. Nice article – Reds for mine.

  • muffy

    Reds and watch, we will do it again this year!
    I have to go, nursie says I have been on the computer long enough

  • Teh Other Dave

    I think the ‘pub test’ is a reasonable way to evaluate this quandrary. I was in Sydney for the 2014 final, as well as the lost 2005 final and to be honest, the crowd and atmosphere were better in 2005. After a loss. The Tahs had the best Australian team money could buy, and they won with penalty goals. Hardly inspiring stuff when compared to the daring and drama of the 2004 Brimbis and 2011 Reds.

    In fairness, I was in a non-rugby state for 2004. The pub was half full, and I recall telling the shellshocked kiwis next to us that whatever was just scored in 30min can be just as easily scored in 50. And it was true, except the Horseys also added another 14.

    I was deep in enemy territory in 2011 – rural NSW. But the 2011 Reds had an irresistable narrative. A shambles for close to a decade, they pulled it together with a mix of youth and experience. They became renowned forthe razzle-dazzle, but could be sensible and play it dour when required. Accordingly, the pub was packed. Rusted on locals were as vocal as this Queenslander who was brought up on the Castlemaine stand. And the Reds brought it home in a tight finish against arguably the strongest opposition of the three matches.

    Take nothing away from the other two sides, who provided sweet victories that we all can rejoice in, but the Reds pass the pub test. They managed to capture the imagination of the Australian rugby public, and as Reg pointed out, brought new support to the game.

  • I may be biased but I’ve got to go the Reds here. Plus this poll might be the the only table we top for a while.

    • Bobas

      Going for the sim-pathetic vote, I like your tactics. You should go for a qld reds head coaching positin in a month.

      • Bruce Lyle

        Backhanded compliment undermining his vote and having a shot at the current situation, I smell blood in the water. #wearereg

  • Nutta

    For me the defining factor is to see the influence each of these teams have had on rugby thereafter. And for that reason I go to the Donkeys. Leaving aside the fact they were the only team in living memory with the outright howitzer power to remove the Cru from the game, the influence of that group over the game in the decade since sets them apart as a truly unique and gifted crew. Admittedly they have had the longest time for their wine to mature but the other sides simply have not gone on to have the whole-of-game gravitas that mob did.

  • Pedro

    Gotta go with the Brumbies team, while all three teams have riches of class the Brumbies are another level. Collectively possessing 924 wallaby caps this brumbies team were a true golden generation, while a handful have accrued one hundred individually it should also be noted that of the 22 there are only 3 players that weren’t capped. Full of game breakers feared and respected at all levels such as Larkham, Gregan and GSmith, they also had a great tight five with locks like Samo, Chisholm and Giffen accompanying front rowers like Paul and Young.

  • Sape

    Wether i like it or not, i just can not overlook Bobas here, solid gold man.

  • Graeme

    Brumbies best team, but for being the most exciting and impressive, it has to go to the Reds. Very few superstars, and a team sheet that didn’t look much different or any better than last years Reds. Yet they played scintillating rugby!

  • Rolly

    I am a huge waratahs supporter and was almost in tears when they won. I was at the reds grand final in 2011 and it was a magnificent game and a fantastic achievement by the reds who played fantastic rugby that year. I look at that brumbies team of 2004 and it was also a great team. However I am going to go out on a limb and state that the 2001 Brumbies side would have beat them all. Reasons are:
    1. The backline is an entire wallaby backline. Every single member played for the wallabies and all of them were in their prime apart from James Holbeck. The forward pack is outstanding and physically hard. Again all but 1 played for the wallabies. The only weakness was the bench but with the starting 15 of that team the bench probably didn’t need to do much. And they did it also without Mortlock and Finegan. For those who don’t remember that team it was the following. (Also putting in to show difference between it and 2004 team)
    1. Bill Young (same as 04)
    2. Jeremy Paul (same)
    3. Ben Darwin (different, I believe better than Nic Henderson)
    4. David Giffen (Better than Chisolm at set piece)
    5. Justin Harrison (against samo I’ll call this even. Harrisons strengths were samo’s weaknesses and vice versa)
    6. Peter Ryan (Finegan has a big edge here)
    7. George Smith (same though I personally believe the 01 smith was better)
    8. Jim Williams ( Personally I believe Better than Fava)
    9. Gregan (Same)
    10. Larkham (smarter in 04 but more explosive in 01, I’ll give 04 the edge)
    11. Joe Roff (Mark Gerrard was more explosive but Roff was in his prime in 01, Roff Wins)
    12.Rod Kafer (Kafer was very smart and Giteau was lucky to have larkhem inside him, I’m calling it even)
    13. James Holbeck ( filled in for Mortlock like Joel Wilson did in 04, Advantage Holbeck)
    14. Graeme Bond ( I’m giving Rathbone slight edge due to speed)
    15. Andrew Walker ( I’m going walker over roff here. Walker was in his prime and was a fantastic player when on, Roff was past his best only slightly in 04)
    This is just a personal opinion but I am honestly thinking that the 01 Brumbies team would beat the lot. They had everything and they destroyed their opposition in the semi final and final. Beat the reds 30 to 6 and then the Cats in the final 36 to 6. Just shows how much better than the rest of the competition they were.

    • Rolly

      out of the 3 teams I am picking the 04 brumbies as much as it pains me. I say this based on Larkham at 10 controlling the game, Finegan, Samo and Fava being better ball runners, George smith would beat Robinson and Hooper, its very hard to choose between all 3 teams though.

    • Nick

      01 Brumbies were immense. We have had some quality Super sides in Aus over the years.

  • RobC

    Excellent article gents. Thanks.

    Cant decide which one was better:
    – Brumbies chock full of Wallabies
    – Tahs. Each phase was drama
    – Reds. Magic.

  • RobC

    I think the other factor is their coaches. In that respect EM did a remarkable job I think

    • Bobas

      Nucifora was the only one not to coach the wallabies after

  • Grant NZ

    04 Brumbies, no question for me.
    The Reds were bloody good, but did benefit from playing a side that had travelled huge distances and (to say the least) had a very disrupted season. And the Tahs needed a wrong call to win at the death, so they’re out.
    The Brumbies in 04 played amazing rugby all season and turned it up to 11 in the first 20 minutes of the final. They were bloody impressive and I suspect Ben Blair still wakes up in a cold sweat remembering them.

    • Tim

      Reds got the call at the death. Tahs got screwed by an incorrect try to the saders.

  • Whig

    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying about Samo and Donkey Kong? Is he the little guy dodging barrels, or the big monkey? I’m not very PC in private, but in a public media article, I would say that joke was bang out of order!

    • Braveheart81

      His nickname is DK as in RaDiKe. DK is then an abbreviation of Donkey Kong.

    • Bobas

      It was his nickname I wasn’t calling him a monkey. The guy dodging the little barrels is called jump-man, the original mario.

      • Whig

        Ok, if one of his nicknames is Donkey Kong, then I take it back. I didn’t know that, and it sure jumped out of the page without that knowledge! All good.

        And bloody great reading too, thanks guys. I can’t split the Brumbies or the Reds. Larkham, Gregan, and Smith, vs Quade, Genia, and Diggers!

  • SuckerForRed

    Is there something wrong or is it just me who can’t vote?

  • SuckerForRed

    IMHO –
    ’04 Brumbies probably the best collection of talent out of the three side. Would be hard for a side to lose even now if they had Gregan & Larkham as their halves. Best team of individuals – maybe. Best team?
    ’11 Reds – Not only were the Saders playing for their city, the Reds were playing for their state. You might remember the carnage that was Dec 2010 & January 2011 in Queensland. I certainly do cause I spent a week sleeping on the floor of my office. I believe that they have been the best recent example of a champion team beating a team of champions. (Outside the Japan RWC team that beat the Springbok.)
    ’14 Tahs – The game was heart stopping. The minute or so between Foley kicking the winning goal and the end of the game was one of the tenses period of a rugby game I have ever witnessed. Best game. Maybe not the best team.

    But then again I am a Reds supporter……….

  • Jack Mallick

    2004 brumbos for mine were the best team but the tahs will always be my favourite.

    It’s worth remembering that Tahs team was the most physically dominant, and particuarly the pack of forwards, any Australian team has ever produced. They blew teams off the park, it was brutal

  • Who?

    Three different stories…

    Brumbies in 04 were a team of champions that were a champion team. They are my pick.

    The Reds in 11 were a champion team, a team on the rise, a team that arguably overachieved that year (due to great coaching), and never reached the same heights again.

    The Tahs in 14 were a team of champions who did enough to get rid of the monkey on their backs.

    It’s interesting to note the similarities and differences. For mine, the Tahs are a very different team to the other two. The other two developed almost all their own talent, played their own crafty styles, had dominant combinations at 9 and 10, had Radike Samo in the team.
    The Tahs played a running game, but not the traditional NSW running game. It was all power, not sleight of hand and deception (in fact, with Qld’s history of 10 man Rugby and the Tahs forever known for the running exploits of the 1928 Tahs (Cyril Towers) and the Ella brothers (and Campo), you could argue the Reds and Tahs swapped traditional styles for their Super titles!). They had the most imports (by a good margin), they had far and away the most experience before their first title (you could argue the Brumbies were experienced in 04, but only because they’d won it in 01. If the Tahs win in 17, then that’s a fair comparison for experience with 04). The Tahs won it through their pack, their 9 and 10 servicing their pack’s needs. Whereas the Brums and Reds had 9’s who ran the forwards, 10’s who ran the backs. It’s a different set of priorities, a different game plan.
    It’s interesting to note that all three teams had a reasonable Randwick influence. Sure, they weren’t there anymore, but Eddie Jones and Link played a big role in establishing the players who won those title for the Brumbies. Then they were both at the Reds (separately). And Link was at the Tahs, then Cheik took home the title. So, lots of Randwick influence, but different versions of that influence… Nucifora’s the only non-Randwick Aussie coach to lead a Super title winning team (although I’ve just pointed out the Randwick influences that had developed his group).

  • 2011 Reds for me. A team on fire.

    • Brisneyland Local

      I hear you brother!

  • Zebber

    I think everyone forgets the season the 2014 Waratahs had. Statistically they were the best of all time..

  • Tyrone

    Quite surprised the 1996 Auckland Blues weren’t included, it was ridiculously loaded with All Blacks. They would be followed closely by the 2004 Brumbies in my opinion. Have a look at some of the names of the 96′ Blues:

    Auckland Blues

    15 Adrian Cashmore
    14 Joeli Vidiri
    13 Eroni Clarke
    12 Johnny Ngauamo
    11 Jonah Lomu
    10 Carlos Spencer
    9 Ofisa Tonu`u
    8 Zinzan Brooke (c)
    7 Andrew Blowers
    6 Michael Jones
    5 Charles Riechelmann
    4 Robin Brooke
    3 Olo Brown
    2 Sean Fitzpatrick
    1 Craig Dowd

    16 Lee Stensness
    17 Cameron Rackham
    18 Michael Scott
    19 Jason Chandler
    20 Kevin Nepia
    21 Andrew Roose

    New Zealand Graham Henry

  • Braveheart81

    That doesn’t make blackface any less racist. Anyway, I was assuming that the Donkey Kong line was to do with his nickname. I certainly hope it was.

ACT Brumbies

Brumbies supporter now living in Melbourne. Rugby and Larkham fan ever since he de beered de Beer. Never shy of controversy because when I say it it's cute.

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