Super Rugby 2020 re-preview - Green and Gold Rugby
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Super Rugby 2020 re-preview

Super Rugby 2020 re-preview

Super Rugby returned to (some of) our screens this weekend gone as the New Zealand version, Aotearoa Super Rugby, returned with two cracking games played in front of two pumping crowds.  The Australian version is a few weeks behind, as we have with most things throughout this COVID19 period, with a new domestic competition incorporating some intriguing new laws, enough to build the anticipation among Aussie rugby fans.

With the tournament still weeks away there’s a lot of time for new developments to play out before that first game, but why not take a look at the current status of some of the key elements of the event.

The Draw:

Steve Lenthall published the draw on release last week.  It is pretty much as we’d expect once we had confirmation the Sunwolves wouldn’t be involved. The Force are back to make a five-team tournament, which gives us a ten-week ‘home and away’ season.

It’s not a true home and away season of course, with the Force still a little uncertain as to if they will get to play their full allotment of home games, in WA. Much will depend on that state’s government guidelines around their borders.

We don’t know where the Tahs are going to play their home games either. One assumes because they have to check if there are any stadiums in the state that don’t need significant upgrades.  Much could be reliant on what size of, if any, crowds are permitted in venue.  If crowds are permitted, based on a percentage of the capacity as suggested, then NSWRU may look to take their games to ANZ Stadium to maximise the numbers attending.

winners NRC 2019 GF Force v Wikings (Credit Delphy)

The Force are back – on the back of their 2019 NRC Championship and an undefeated GRR run

The Laws:

As with the Aotearoa competition, the Aussie version has its own Law Variations, as listed here with notes specific to that law.

When an attacking player carrying the ball is held up in the in-goal or knocks the ball on play restarts with a goal line drop-out

When a kick enters the in-goal area and is forced by the defending team play restarts with a goal line drop-out

  • Drop-out is taken anywhere on or behind the defending team’s goal line. Sanction: 5m scrum in line with the place where the kick was taken
  • Must be taken without delay. Sanction: Free-kick
  • Must cross the goal line and travel 5m. Sanction: The non-kicking team has the option of the kick being retaken or a 5m scrum in line with the place where the kick was taken
  • The defence must be back 5m
  • An opponent must not charge over the 5m line before the ball is kicked. Sanction: Free-kick
  • If the ball crosses the 5m line but the bounces back play continues

A kick originating in the attacking 22m area cannot be marked by the defending team within their own 22m area. The kick can however be marked within the defending team’s in-goal area and play restarts with a 22m line drop- out

  • To claim a mark, a player must:
    • Have a least one foot on or behind their own goal line when catching the ball or when landing having caught it in the air; and
    • Catch a ball that has reached the plane of the goal line directly from an opponent’s kick before it touches the ground or another player; and
    • Simultaneously call “mark”
    • A player may claim a mark even if the ball hits a goal post or crossbar before being caught
    • When a mark is called correctly, the referee immediately stops the game and awards a 22m restart to the team in possession
    • Any player may take the 22m restart

Red Card – A red carded player can be replaced after 20min

  • If all substitutions have been used the Red Carded player cannot be replaced

50/22 – A kick taken from within the defending team’s 50m area that travels into touch within the opposition’s 22m area having first bounced in the field of play results in a lineout throw to the kicking team 

  • Criteria
    • The defending team did not take the ball into their own 50m area; or
    • A tackle, ruck or maul takes places within the 50m area; or
    • An opponent touched the ball within the 50m area
  • Clarifications
    • The above does not apply if a player kicks the ball from a free-kick awarded in the 50m area
    • The 50m area includes the defending team’s in-goal area

22/50 – A kick taken from within the defending team’s 22m area that travels into touch within the opposition’s 50m area having first bounced in the field of play results in a lineout throw to the kicking team 

  • Criteria
    • The defending team did not take the ball into their own 22m area; or
    • A tackle, ruck or maul takes places within the 22m area; or
    • An opponent touched the ball within the 22m area
  • Clarifications
    • The above does not apply if a player kicks the ball from a free-kick awarded in the 22
    • The 22m area includes the defending team’s in-goal area

Super Time – (2 x 5min periods of extra time) in the event of a drawn game after regulation time where the first points scored wins the match for the scoring team 

  • First points scored in Super Time wins match
  • No conversions of tries
  • Losing team receives bonus point for being within 7 points
  • Team that kicks off match kicks off first period of Super Time
Angus Gardner shows Semisi Masirewa a red card

Red cards will hopefully lead to less ruined spectacles.

The goal line drop out and the 50-22/22-50 were both part of the NRC last year, albeit without the same level of criteria built around it. The mark rule should apparently be renamed the Matt rule, as it was pushed by Matt Toomua as part of a law review committee that seemingly didn’t meet too often.  The final law variation, regarding the replacement of a Red Card, may not even be seen this season.

While not being a law variation, the word out of HQ is that match officials will be told to focus on policing the breakdown, limit the number of scrum resets, and get tough on cynical and repeated infringements to speed up play. These has been a similar focus in New Zealand with both games featuring a high number of penalties particularly around the ruck.

The Squads:

The Reds:

The high-profile departure of Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas was the biggest player related news over the break.  Frankly, I still can’t believe we won’t see these players were maroon again.  A damn shame. Henry Speight is off next year, but is expected to play a game or two at least.

The loss of a couple of two-foot locks, one a Wallaby and the other a Wallaby to be, is a massive blow.  Ryan Smith, from the Brothers club, has been brought into the squad as a replacement but we are likely to see Lukhan Salakai-Loto relinquish his #6 jersey and move in tight to partner Angus Blyth at lock. More significantly this could see captain Liam Wright moved to blindside with Fraser McReight getting the 7 jersey to make one the most exciting backrow combinations, with Harry Wilson, in the country. And one that could be very dangerous under the new ruck interpretations.

Possible Team: 1 JP Smith 2 Alex Mafi 3 Taniela Tupou 4 Lukhan Salakai-Loto  5 Angus Blyth 6 Liam Wright [c] 7 Fraser McReight 8 Harry Wilson 9 Tate McDermott 10 James O’Connor 11 Filipo Daugunu 12 Hamish Stewart 13 Hunter Paisami 14 Henry Speight 15 Jock Campbell

16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa 17 Dane Zander 18 Josh Nasser 19 Michael Wood 20 Angus Scott-Young 21 Scott Maloula 22 Bryce Hegarty 23 Chris Feauia-Sautia

Alex Mafi celebrates a try

Alex Mafi celebrates a try

The Waratahs:

Not a lot of news around the Waratah’s off-season. We know there will be one face we won’t be seeing run out in sky-blue again – that of veteran hooker Damien Fitzpatrick. The highly respected rake has been forced into retirement in a blow to a NSW team that has, in the previous the other season earlier this year, struggled to show much direction or application. No replacement has been announced with Robbie Abel most likely to wear the 2 jersey, at least initially.

Possible Team:  1 Angus Bell 2 Robbie Abel 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes 4 Jed Holloway 5 Rob Simmons [c] 6 Ned Hanigan 7 Michael Hooper 8 Jack Dempsey 9 Jake Gordon 10 Will Harrison 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase 12 Karmichael Hunt, 13 Lalakai Foketi 14 Jack Maddocks 15 Kurtley Beale

16 Andrew Tuala 17 Tom Robertson 18 Tetera Faulkner 19 Will Harris 20 Lachie Swinton 21 Mitch Short 22 Tepai Moeroa 23 Joey Walton

Will Harrison challenging the line.

Will Harrison challenging the line.

The Brumbies:

As you’d expect from the previous conference leaders, the Brumbies are pretty rock solid.  They have welcome back former Brumby, and most recently of the Sunwolves, Ben Hyne. Hyne comes in as injury cover for the injured Cadeyrn Neville who is expected to miss at least the start of the Super Rugby competition.

Possible Team: 1 James Slipper 2 Folau Faingaa 3 Allan Alaalatoa [c] 4 Murray Douglas 5 Darcy Swain 6 Rob Valetini 7 Will Miller 8 Peter Samu 9 Joe Powell 10 Noah Loloesio 11 Tom Wright 12 Irae Simone 13 Tevita Kuridrani 14 Solomone Kata 15 Tom Banks

16 Connal McInerney 17 Scott Sio 18 Tom Ross 19 Ben Hyne 20 Lachie McCaffrey 21 Ryan Lonergan 22 Bayley Kuenzle 23 Andy Muirhead

Simone tries to evade.

Irea Simone tries to evade a tackle

The Rebels:

Some intriguing signings down in Melbourne as our Australian 7s players look for some game time with the chances of a World 7s Series in the near future being slim. Former captain Lewis Holland, young-gun Lachie Anderson and the powerful Jeral Skelton have all been signed.  Kiwi rugby has long been able to manage the transitioning of players between the two versions of the game, so it will be interesting to see if these three can match up.  All have an excellent breadth of skills and could be absolute stars, with the younger Anderson and Skelton particularly exciting.

Possible Team: 1 Matt Gibbon 2 Jordan Uelese 3 Jermaine Ainsley 4 Luke Jones 5 Matt Philip 6 Angus Cottrell 7 Richard Hardwick 8 Isi Naisirani 9 Ryan Louwrens 10 Matt Toomua [c] 11 Marika Koroibete 12 Reece Hodge 13 Campbell Magnay 14 Andrew Kellaway 15 Dane Haylett-Petty

16 Anaru Rangi 17 Pone Fa’amausili 18 Ruan Smith 19 Ross Haylett-Petty 20 Michael Wells 21 Frank Lomani 22 Andrew Deegan 23 Lachlan Anderson

Reece Hodge through the gap Waratahs v Rebels 2019 (Credit Keith McInnes)

Reece Hodge charges through the gap (Credit Keith McInnes)

The Force:

One suspects the signings haven’t stopped for the Force, after their recent announcements of Wallabies Kyle Godwin and Greg Holmes plus former Force-ites Jono Lance and Ollie Atkins.  They might need a couple more big guns in key positions (Rodda, Hocking and Lucas would be a fair start) to really trouble the competition, but they’ll bring passion and purpose to the competition that runs the risk of seeming like a meaningless gap filler.

Possible Team: 1 Chris Heiberg 2 Andrew Ready 3 Greg Holmes 4 Ollie Atkins 5 Fergus Lee-Warner 6 Tevin Ferris 7 Chris Alcock 8 Brynard Stander 9 Ian Prior [c] 10 Jono Lance 11 Byron Ralston 12 Nick Jooste 13 Kyle Godwin 14 Jonah Placid 15 Jack McGregor

16 Heath Tessmann 17 Tom Sheminant 18 Kieran Longbottom 19 Jeremy Thrush 20 Henry Stowers 21 Jacob Abel 22 Henry Taefu 23 Pama Fou

ForceRays10 - Copy

Jack McGregor races into space

Predictions:

I don’t see any reason we won’t see much of the same as the previous Super Rugby season.  The Brumbies are absolute favorites for the competition and their canny ruck master, Lord Laurie Fisher will be all over the interpretation of the breakdown.  My beloved Reds showed they were trending up at a good time, but what impact the drama around the ‘Picone 3′ has on their game is anyone’s guess.  I am backing them to finish top two, with the final spot in the top three a battle between the frustrating Rebels, the disappointing Waratahs and the up against it Force.

Hope:

Moving on from what I THINK will happen, this is what I HOPE happens.  I HOPE the players and coaches look less to the law variations to speed up the game, and look more towards themselves.  I HOPE they take it upon themselves to realise that fast and skillful rugby is just as much fun to play as it is to watch.  And, by God, do we need to have our teams that both our players want to stay and play but our fans want to come and watch.

Which brings me to my other HOPE.  I HOPE the fans get behind it.  It’s time to stop grumbling about Raelene, and Clyne, and Wiggs, and RUPA, and Cheika, and News Ltd, and Israel, and Picone (yes, I note the hypocrisy) and all the other shitty things that have happened in Australian Rugby of late. I HOPE the fans, firstly, CAN get to the games and, secondly, DO get to the games.  The crowds in New Zealand were awesome last weekend. We may not have the same freedom to fill our stadiums, but I sure do bloody well HOPE we get some people in them – as many as we can – and they are bloody well enjoy themselves while they are there.

  • Crescent

    And I see in the news today that the Waratahs are letting Phil Bailey go as defensive coach, and replacing him with Jason Gilmore of the U20 Wallabies. It will be interesting to see how much influence Gilmore can have on the very leaky Waratah defence in the few short weeks available.

    Tuala will need to come up to speed to challenge Abel for the starting hooker position – in the truncated pre-COVID season Abel was not exactly challenging Fitzpatrick for the starting position.

    • Crescent
      • formerflanker

        What to believe – the video or my rose coloured reminiscences?

    • formerflanker

      I thought the goal line drop out is designed to stop interminable “pick and drive” from 5m or so out. Currently that’s a useful ploy because if you get held up you get an attacking scrum. A good result.
      However now the attacking team, if held up, will have to scamper back and cover all grass from the try line to say half way.
      The new law gives the attacking team more incentive to spread the ball, run on to it at pace, play attacking rugby, and rely less on the boring pick and drive.

  • Brumby Jack

    Keen for the reboot! Do you think without the pressure of having to play Kiwi and South African teams, we will see the franchises properly rotate the match-day squad and give some fringe players meaningful game time (e.g the likes of Mack Mason? Or with a shortened season will we see the same-old squad management.
    It would be great to see the teams blood some players.

    • RugbyReg

      yeah, that’s an option – in saying that I think all teams will be after a trophy. Especially it it means hosting a grand final without crowd restrictions. The financial boost would be crucial.

  • GoMelbRebels

    “The loss of a couple of two-foot locks…”. Can’t see them being much of a challenge come lineout time, though I guess they would be fairly easy to toss up in the air.

  • idiot savant

    Thanks Reg for getting us back to rugby. Im personally hoping that we will see some intensity return to Aust rugby free of the dissociative effect of the Sanzar comp which had a travelling circus feel to a lot of the match ups. Most of these games will mean something.

    Bold prediction. The Tahs will beat the Reds in the first game. Picking Gilmore as a coach is a great sign of their new approach which will be to rebuild through defence. There will be Wallaby jerseys on the line and I predict Dempsey will overcome his lost form and lead an aggressive approach. They will niggle and take it to the slow Reds pack around the edges of the ruck. I doubt Beale will play on his dodgy hamstring, Maddocks to fullback and Ramm (a future Wallaby) to wing. Better all round. And the Reds havent beaten the Tahs for nearly a decade so doubt will creep in when it gets close. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young guys let loose – Bell, Marky Mark, Tafa, Tizzano and bring some much needed speed to their game. If only they had some centres.

    The Brumbies will be peerless. A prize for the coach that works out a game plan to beat them. Theres not enough brain cells north of the Tweed, and the troops south of the Murray lack the speed even if Wessells can work out how to do it, Hard to imagine the others getting near. The Brums will do it in threes. Best front row, back row, and back three. Throw in the spark of the young kid at 10 and the smartest coaches (by a country mile) and the engraver can start now and take September off.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      I agree about the Reds struggling mentally against the Tahs. IT seems to be something they cant shake and could be telling. If they do though it could be interesting.

    • RugbyReg

      Gilmore will have been there for 2 weeks buy the time that game happens. He’s a good coach – he’s no miracle worker.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Reg some good stuff here and looking forward to this. I hope the referees are as strict as NZ and keep it up so the players have to adapt. Looking forward to seeing how the rules go but TBH I’m feeling a bit negative about them. I hope I’m wrong

    • Happyman

      Hi KARL still seems wrong

      I enjoyed the Kiwi games on the weekend particularly the speed on the Blues they seemed to want to tire the Canes out. I hope the refs stay the course and the Aussie refs do the same thing as the players will adapt after a few games and they will open up the games.

      If they can speed the game up long term I think it will eventually lead to smaller players coming back as you cannot carry that amount of muscle around all of the time. But I am also in favour of fewer replacements as more tired players gives creative guys more space Later in the game.

      Personally I would go with the same size bench but you can only use 4 replacements and if you run out of players and have to use an extra front rower you drop to 14.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    In 10 years time I think the word meaningless gap filler will be a good description of a competition no-one will even remember. Who cares who win? I just hope the players and fans just enjoy the rugby knowing that nothing is on the line other than an opportunity to get noticed for Wallaby selection. It would be good to play without the pressure of having to win.

    • Dally M

      Or it will be remembered as the beginning of the changes that revived rugby in Australia.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        Like the Top 10 competition in 1995…. that is remembered for what followed it (Superugby) and not for what it was. Who can name the 10 teams?

        • Dally M

          The current 5 Kiwi teams, NSW, QLD, Bulls, Stormers and Sharks.

          But it really kicked on when it became Super 12 Rugby. All downhill after that.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          Wrong

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          You missed the Winners – Transvaal that beat Auckland (Mitre 10 team) in the final. There were no regional franchises – South African teams were Transvaal, Western Province, Northern Transvaal and Natal and the four Kiwi teams was more Mitre 10 teams.

        • idiot savant

          Not in 1995. Qld beat the Lions coached by Knuckles Connolly.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          I was wrong and corrected the facts above. Tvl won in 1993 and QLD in 1994-1995. The point stand that no-one can even remember not even a fanatical fan like myself. This years competition will be the same…it is a last minute rushed competition

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          However good effort….

    • John Tynan

      I reckon if the Force win it, we won’t have a choice but to remember it!!

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        A couple of reminders may do the trick….

    • idiot savant

      We all need to get behind this competition. Super Rugby is the most expensive competition in the world and no Australian broadcaster will pay enough for it be viable for Australia. To continue playing against teams from South Africa, Argentina, and Japan will either invite bankruptcy or massive loans that will eat all the profit of future events like the Lions tour. If we all get behind this and the ratings are good there might be enough incentive for an Australian broadcaster to keep professional rugby alive in either a wholly domestic or trans Tasman comp. One thing this comp aint is meaningless.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        It will be like the Top 10 competition in 1995 the precursor of a Superugby. Who can remember the teams that played in the final and who won. I can,,,

        • idiot savant

          It wasn’t the Top 10, it was the Super 10 and it was Super Rugby with teams from South Africa, NZ, Oz, and the Pacific from memory. The competition was up and running for a few years before 1995 which was I think the first year of professionalism in rugby and bankrolled by the devil himself. Some years before that it was half amateur half professional and had six teams – 3 kiwi, 2 Oz and Fiji?

          I don’t think we have ever had a wholly domestic comp in Australia before that didn’t just involve yearly grudge matches between NSW and Qld. So in some ways this is a watershed moment – the biggest professional domestic rugby competition we have ever had. We should celebrate that. It is actually a sign of growth.

        • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

          No Pacific team played. It was NSW, QLD, Transvaal, N Tvl, WP, Natal, Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury and one other. Transvaal won.

          Really no-one cared about a one off competition just as they will not care about who win Superugby AU 2020

        • idiot savant

          the one other was Tonga.

        • idiot savant

          Its pretty obvious no one in Australia has cared who has won super rugby for the last 20 years. Otherwise the broadcasters would be offering big bucks for the competition.

        • John Tynan

          2011 is inside your 20 yr window. I remember being pretty excited!

  • Timbo

    Where is the place to whine about new mungo rules? Just asking for a mate

  • Dally M

    And in other news….shock, horror, no agreement on a global season due to the north….again.

  • Dally M

    How good is the promo video for Super Rugby AU!

    https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2020/06/10/super-rugby-au-confirmation

    • onlinesideline

      how brilliant – best rugby comp in the world

    • ATrain

      It is very good – the only thing that threw me a little was the use of some of the older footage…QC was in it and he was still playing last year but then they showed Larkham and the one that really stood out to me was Tuquiri. I guess they were linking to past champions etc. Very effective ad though – I wonder if it was run on high rotation with the promise of a live game every Saturday night on FTA if we could get some really good audience numbers building.

      • Dally M

        The broadcast situation is going to be very interesting going forward.

        I don’t think Foxtel is sustainable in it’s current form and subscription amount, hence their own moves to Kayo for sport and Binge for their other content to compete with Optus, Netflix, Stan etc.

        NZ Rugby is predominantly behind a paywall but there is little competition.

        I wonder if a Rugby streaming service similar to Optus and Kayo for $10/month with at least 1-2 games on free to air (involving an Aussie team) could work for whatever form the 2nd tier takes from 2021 onwards. There has to be short term pain to get the long term gain. Just depends whether that now have the appetite for that or will fall for the same trap as last time.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks team.
    I’m fine with most of the variations, except for the 22/50 and 50/22 rubbish. I’m not sure what that adds to the game, to be honest. Some talk about it meaning you have to leave wingers back rather than up in the D line, but really, they’re wingers……

    Agree on the Reds back row, which I think is better served by LSL in 2nd row anyway.

    Bring it on!!!

  • Paul Rigby

    The Australian market wants continuity, not a version of NFL we have been subjected to. The kids and young Adults are following NBA for that continuity. I don’t think those 7 rule changes were enough. Decreasing Penalties and field goals to 2 points would have helped. But it’s good to see just the Australian Teams going head to head. Whatever happens, it is a step in the right direction.

  • Brumby Runner

    Reg, I won’t be at all surprised if Sio starts in place of James. Watching a few of the 2015 vintage games being shown as fillers reminds me of how good he was when he came into Super. So good, I think he must have been hampered by injury in the most recent years. If he has been able to get to full fitness in the virus break, then there is a very good chance that he will win back his starting spot long term.

Rugby
@RugbyReg

The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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