Super Rugby AU final preview - Green and Gold Rugby
ACT Brumbies

Super Rugby AU final preview

Super Rugby AU final preview

Alright. It’s time to get down to business with the Super Rugby AU final on Saturday night between the competitions first and second place teams – the Brumbies and the Reds.

This week we’ve shaken things up a bit where a writer covering the other team gets to have a say on the final, but with a twist. We’re going to have a look at the opposition and see where the strengths are and what to look out for. I’ve handed the keys over to GAGR’s own King of the North, Reg Roberts, to give his take on Brumbies while I have a look at the Reds and see what to look out for.

Steve’s take on the Reds
The Reds have been to Canberra twice this year and have come away with two losses, but those losses have been by a total of five points and one of those losses came after the bell after Mack Hansen kicked a clutch penalty goal. In both of those games they were in front heading towards the back end of the game only to give up leads so they’ve shown they can play and disrupt the Brumbies flow.

Brad Thorn’s men have been clinical since that blip against the Waratahs including a touch up of the Western Force, the win against the Brumbies two weeks ago and beat the Melbourne Rebels last week to give themselves a bit of momentum heading into the final.

It’s well documented that Thorn can get the best out of a young side and this game is eerily similar to the 2017 NRC final when he brought a young Queensland Country side to Canberra and knocked off the Vikings on their own turf. There are six players from that side in this week’s 23 and would have been seven if Chris Feauai-Sautia was fit to play and it’s clear they won’t be overawed by the occasion.

The Reds backline has been ably led by James O’Connor and with the attacking threats of Filipo Daugunu and Jordan Petaia out wide, the Brumbies will be in for a long night trying to shut them down. But the Brumbies just can’t focus on those two or one of the other options in the backline will step in and cause problems for the defence. Jock Campbell has flown under the radar a bit in comparison, but his involvements have been key in getting the Reds into good scoring opportunities with an elusive running style to beat defenders.

The Reds backrow has also been a key feature of their game in 2020. The three starters named will rightly have a spring in their step after being named in Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad for later in the year. Liam Wright has been a leader in words and actions and Harry Wilson’s running game has also featured heavily with his 99 carries equal second with Matt Philip and behind his teammate Filipo Daugunu, who also leads a host of categories.

Fraser McReight completes the triple threat and his tournament leading 18 turnovers won will make the Brumbies have to think about their support play in rucks. I wonder if Thorn has had a word about when to pick and choose his moments to attack the ball after a harsh penalty back in August lead to the game deciding penalty and leave the match outcome up to the players and not in the hands of the officials.

Key matchup

Pete Samu v Harry Wilson – With the big omission of Isi Naisarani from the Wallabies squad, it’s out of these two who Dave Rennie will select come October for the Bledisloe. Or maybe they’re both so good that Rennie has to pick them both and play one at six? Either way, both players have the style of game to create problems for the opposition and Samu was one of the best in a beaten side the last time these two played and Wilson’s ball carrying will be crucial for the Reds.

Reg’s take on the Brumbies
The Reds have been on a roll since their flogging at the hands of the Waratahs back in round six. Their run of victories since then has included the Force and Rebels (twice) and this very Brumby team in the last game of the round. What does that mean for this weekend? Absolutely nothing.

The Brumbies are the very definition of clinical. They are a team who has built their game on efficiency. You do not master one of the most difficult group skills in the game, the rolling maul, and not be considered superbly prepared. And it is that preparedness that will see them take out this weekend’s grand finale.

It has always been an inherent trait of Brumby teams. Initiated by the detail-focused Rod Macqueen and carried on by the fastidious Eddie Jones, it remains through coach Dan McKellar and Laurie Fischer and through their experience stars such as Nic White, Allan Alaalatoa, Scott Sio, Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Banks.

It is why you can disregard the loss the last game loss to the Reds because they were inordinately unclinical. That loss, with that performance, followed by the all-important week off are enough to ensure the home team remain firm favourites.

This perfect preparation, including the return of crucial stars, is the opposite of the Reds’ lead in. The physically draining battle against the Rebels on Saturday night together with the emotional challenges of managing injuries to key players – well, it should prove all too much for this young Reds outfit. Particularly on the back of the day trip from hell just to make the game.

Big games are made of big moments and big moments come from big players. This Brumbies team is ‘Andre the Giant’- big.

They have three times the number of international caps than the Reds do. In fact, they have the luxury of Rob Valetini on the pine who has more international caps than the entire Reds bench. The Brumbies starting front row has more test caps than the entire Reds 23. When the teams are under the high pressure setting of a Grand Final, after such a challenging season, it’s this experience that will set the two teams apart.

Key Match Up

Taniela Tupou v Scott Sio & James Slipper – No single player has had as bigger an impact on this competition as Taniela Tupou. Sure he’s given away a heap of penalties (15, the same as Scott Sio, in one additional match) but he’s more than made up for that in just about every other aspect of the game. There’s been enough platitudes for his 75th minute break and try assist last week, which came off the back of a powerful 2nd half scrum performance. But what about that first half?

That first half, Rebels loosehead prop Cameron Orr took it to Nella in the scrum and probably had one of his quieter halves elsewhere. Tupou comes into his own in the loose, when he’s dominating in tight. That’s why the dual match up with Scott Sio and ultimately James Slipper will go a long way to dulling the Reds attack structure. If the two experienced Wallabies do nothing else but gain parity, and perhaps a bit more so, at the scrum then the game will be there for the Brumbies on a platter


The Reds had a very physical game last week against the Reds while the Brumbies had the week off to recharge. Dan McKellar has plenty of big names on the bench to come on towards the end of the game that hopefully gets them over the line. Either way, it’s shaping up as a cracker!



1 Scott Sio
2 Folau Fainga’a
3 Allan Alaalatoa
4 Murray Douglas
5 Cadeyrn Neville
6 Lachie McCaffrey
7 Will Miller
8 Pete Samu
9 Joe Powell
10 Noah Lolesio
11 Tom Wright
12 Irae Simone
13 Tevita Kuridrani
14 Andy Muirhead
15 Tom Banks

16 Connal McInerney
17 James Slipper
18 Tom Ross
19 Nick Frost
20 Rob Valetini
21 Nic White
22 Bayley Kuenzle
23 Solomone Kata


1 JP Smith
2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa
3 Taniela Tupou
4 Angus Blyth
5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
6 Liam Wright
7 Fraser McReight
8 Harry Wilson
9 Tate McDermott
10 James O’Connor
11 Filipo Daugunu
12 Hamish Stewart
13 Hunter Paisami
14 Jordan Petaia
15 Jock Campbell

16 Josh Nasser
17 Harry Hoopert
18 Ruan Smith
19 Tuaina Tali Tualima
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Moses Sorovi
22 Bryce Hegarty
23 Jack Hardy


Kick off: GIO Stadium, Saturday 19 September 7:20pm AEST
Referee: Angus Gardner
AR1: Amy Perrett
AR2: Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie

  • With substantial reservations, I’ll go for the Brumbies (maybe)!

  • Tim

    This game will be exciting. I reckon reds will be in-front until brumbies unleash the bench. Then the final minutes will be crazy. I am so excited to see Noah Loesio back from recovery! and Hunter Paisami back in the starting line up.

    • Geoffro

      What about Len Ikitau ? Recent Wallaby callup doesn’t even rate a spot on the Brumbies bench :)

      • IIPA

        Good to see McKellar is his own man with selections. Also relegated Valentini to the bench over McCaff ( which I personally feel is the right call and I’m sure Valentini will still get solid minutes ).

        It’s a deep Brumbies squad that has no room for Swain, Hansen, Ikitau, Cusack, the Lonergans, Fines….

        • Mica

          For me, the benches are the difference. Even more problems for the Reds if they have to go to the bench early,

  • Mica

    So with McCaf in the starting side, is Dan shaping for the early wide game ala the Rebs? McCaf will secure ruck ball and link more effectively than Valetini. Also Lolesio is a better and quicker distributor than Kuenzle. The kick pass was mentioned by an astute GAGR a day or two ago. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this in the playbook as well and maybe early.

    The Brumbies will come out at 100 miles an hour and try to rattle the Reds. The Brumbies are pretty good front runners too.

    Rennie is going to love this one for helping him select his Wallaby side. How will all the young guns perform under some real pressure?

    Oh um and go Reds!! :)

  • Mica

    Can I just say too, that this is really set up for TK to shine. I think this is probably the biggest mismatch in the one on ones across the team sheets. For me the next biggest mismatches are LSL and Tate, bench notwithstanding.

    • Reds Revival

      I don’t think Paisami will be overawed by TK. I think that he will be more than happy to put a big hit on him. Not sure what the mismatch is with LSL? I agree that Tate should have it all over Powell, I won’t be surprised if they bring Nick White on early in the second half.

      • Mica

        LSL has been in career best form. Caderyn Neville is playing well and no disrespect to him at all. He’s solid and will do his role well. I just expect LSL to have more impact.
        Yeah – I also expect Nic to go the niggle with Tate to see if he can upset him and put him off his game. :) That’s a pretty easy call though. Scrum halves and all………

      • What is the situation with Thorn and his contract? Before Covid I was so-so, lets wait and see. But win or lose this match, I think it’s hard to deny the Reds are a success story and he deserves an extension.

        However, I’m not a Reds fan in particular and I wandered what your feelings (and the others Reds fans out there) felt?

        • Reds Revival

          Really good question EP. I know there are still quite a few fans who are dirty on Brad for letting Quade go, as well as Slipps and Karmichael, but I’m not one of them. What has appealed to me most about Thorny is that he has had a long term plan from Day 1. For him, it is not about winning 1 championship, but about starting a dynasty, similar to the Crusaders, and that takes time. I thought next year might be our time, so this has come a little earlier than expected, but we don’t have the foreign teams in this years version. I saw enough pre-COVID to suggest that the Reds will be a handful for both NZ and SA teams in coming years, and that makes me excited. Sign him up for another few years is my feeling.

  • Brumby Runner

    Is McCaffrey there to counter Liam Wright in the lineout? If so, I’d prefer to see him at 7 and to retain Valetini in the XV.

    Just hope the game is not spoilt by poor refereeing performance. Gardner has been very hot and cold during SRAu.

    • I honestly don’t know who will win. The Reds have an edge after that win in the last round, but the Brumbies have a week to rest and make plans…

      But whatever the outcome, I really hope it’s not decided by a bad refereeing performance.

    • sugarwookie

      Tbh when I saw he was the main in the middle, my heart sank…

  • Reds Revival

    Smart move by the Reds to start with JP Smith in the front row. That should ensure that they get scrum dominance from the outset. They will need that early dominance to have any chance.

    • sugarwookie

      Yeah… that has me a bit worried. Scotty Sio hasn’t had the best time in the scrums in SR:AU… he’s due for a big game though. The absolute freak, Tupou on the opposite side too :-|

  • Ads

    For no actual reason, I’m predicting a big game from Scotty Sio – he’s due.

  • Keith Butler

    With no skin in this particular game I can sit back with a few beers and enjoy what I hope will be a showpiece for Aussie rugby. The Reds will be tired after last weeks exertions against the Rebs but will be fired up 110% for this one. The Brumbies were decidedly lacklustre, or made to look lacklustre 2 weeks ago and a number of their experienced players will have to raise their game. If everyone brings their A game it would be difficult to pick a winner. Could be down to to run on’s in the last 20 mins which I think would favour the Brumbies. However, I hope The Reds young side get across the line.

  • sugarwookie

    Reg going hard for the underdog tag! Qld is the form team going into this game though.

    Big questions marks and pressure on Lolesio in his first game back… I’m so bloody nervous. Can’t wait to get into Bruce Stadium tomorrow night! C’ARN YOU BRUMBIES! #neigh

    • Reds Revival

      Great thing about this game SW, is that it can be legitimately be won by either team. It depends which team wants it more on the night (or believes they can). Good luck to the Brumbies, but it is going to be an epic duel!

      • sugarwookie

        100% mate! Stats for both teams are pretty even, the only real difference I can see is the bench. If it comes to it, we’ve got a pretty amazing group on the pine.

        Game could be done and dusted by then though… who knows! I’ve been jittery all day about it haha!

        Fingers crossed it lives up to our expectations… weather might be a bit sketchy though, a bit of rain forecast. Let’s hope it stays away and we get a cracking match. Best of luck to your lads as well – and no injuries as we want to be dominating the Wallabies side! ;-)

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