The Oz Conference – who rules the ridiculous? - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Oz Conference – who rules the ridiculous?

The Oz Conference – who rules the ridiculous?

This week we enter Round 12 of the competition which means we have just half a dozen games before the Super Rugby finals commence. While many Australian Rugby fans (if there any such thing at the moment) will be relieved when this Super Rugby season finishes, we must not forget that under this quirky SANZAAR competition, one of our teams will actually host a Quarter Final.

Put aside how undeserving that is, considering our top ranked team is in 10th position in a ‘traditional’ table. A home town Quarter Final will be a godsend for all of our struggling teams as it means a big financial boost from hosting (assuming there may be some increased ticket sales) the big game. Forgetting our chances of actually winning that game (although, as they say, anything can happen come finals time), finishing first in the Australian Conference is vital for each team.

More interestingly, the race to first is still far from over. Let’s take a look at each team and their run home.

1st – Brumbies on 18 competition points 

Captain Sam Carter salutes the Brumbies fans.

Captain Sam Carter salutes the Brumbies fans.

Draw:

Rnd 12 – Lions (H)

Rnd 13 – Kings (A)

Rnd 14 – Jaguares (A)

Rnd 15 – Rebels (H)

Rnd 16 – Reds (A)

Rnd 17 – Chiefs (A)

Snapshot:

The Brumbies have not won a game this year outside of their conference and unfortunately only have two conference games left this season. To make matters worse they are only home for two more games – this weekend against the Lions and in Round 15 against the Rebels. Their ‘South African’ tour isn’t too imposing from an opposition perspective, but it’s an almighty trek with minimal recovery time.

Crystal balling:

It’ll be a tough ask to shut down the Lions this weekend, despite being at home, and then the Brumbies jump on a plane for their tour of the South African conference. As far as tours go, it isn’t the toughest as they face the bottom two teams of the Africa 2 Conference, but even the bottom placed Kings are now sitting on the same number of season wins as the Brumbies. I’ll back the Aussies to snag one win, and then a couple of important victories over the Rebels and Reds, but I can’t see them as able beat the Chiefs in Waikato in that last round.

Final Points:

Three more wins to come (potential bonus point wins in the Aussie Conference games). I’m suggesting they’ll secure another 14 competition points to finish on 32 points.

2nd – Waratahs on 15 competition points 

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

Hooper marshals the troops     (Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes)

Draw:

Rnd 12 – BYE

Rnd 13 – Rebels (H)

Rnd 14 – Highlanders (A)

Rnd 15 – Chiefs (A)

Rnd 16 – Jaguares (H)

Rnd 17 – Force (A)

Snapshot:

A bye this week may help with injuries but at a time when all Aussie teams are desperate for points, it’s a pain in the arse. With just two conference games to come the Tahs will rely on their three remaining matches to try to give them an edge over their compatriots.  A couple of games in New Zealand make it a tough run home, but even if they were in Sydney it would be hard to see the Waratahs winning.

Crystal balling:

The Tahs should win their two home games and they’ll drop the two in New Zealand. Fantastically so much could count on that last round away game against the Force where the East Coast Elitists in sky blue will be made to feel so welcome by the locals. Emotion will win that one (aka the Force).

Final Points:

No points for the bye of course, and then eight points from their remaining home games. I think they’ll go down out west but probably pinch a losing bonus point. This will see them finish on 24 points.

3rd – Reds on 11 competition points 

Kerevi secrets.

Kerevi secrets.

Draw:

Rnd 12 – Rebels (A)

Rnd 13 – BYE

Rnd 14 – Force (H)

Rnd 15 – Blues (A) * Apia

Rnd 16 – Brumbies (H)

Rnd 17 – Highlanders (A)

Snapshot:

Another dastardly bye comes when a team most doesn’t need it. The Reds have the advantage over their higher placed Aussie competitors in that they have three conference games, two of which are at home. Unfortunately these are counter balanced by a couple of away games against kiwi teams (albeit the Blues game will be in Samoa). While the Blues and Highlanders sit at the bottom of the NZ conference, neither will be easy games for the Reds.

Crystal balling:

The most likely win here is over the Rebels this weekend, but with Sean McMahon and Colby Faingaa due back, it won’t be easy. I’ll give us a victory over the Force because I can be biased like that, but the Brumbies is probably a bridge too far. What to expect against the Blues in Samoa, less than a week before they take on the British Lions, is anyone’s guess – we’ve never lost to them there at least.

Final Points:

Just the eight points from the Force and Rebels game is foreseeable.  A win over the Blues is possible but would be a surprise and I can’t bank on it. Reds to finish on 19 points.

4th – Force on 9 competition points 

Coleman emerges from the smoke.

Coleman emerges from the smoke.

Draw:

Rnd 12 – Jaguares (A)

Rnd 13 – Highlanders (H)

Rnd 14 – Reds (A)

Rnd 15 – Hurricanes (H)

Rnd 16 – Rebels (H)

Rnd 17 – Waratahs (H)

Snapshot:

The Force have the best run home of the Aussie teams with four home games. It’s a big chance for their beleaguered rugby community to come out in numbers and ride the season home. While it will be a surprise if they beat either visiting New Zealand teams, their final two games are big statements ready to be made. Even their two away games, this weekend against the Jaguares and a fortnight later against the Reds, are winnable.

Crystal balling:

I will back the Force to knock off the Rebels and the Waratahs to close out the season, and potentially their existence. I can’t see them running either of the Landers or Canes close, although they did give the Chiefs a scare. Their big chance is this weekend against an up and down Jags and then the Reds, who they have had the wood over of late.

Final Points:

I’ll go nine points just from those final two games.  A win this weekend is hard to pick but could set them up for a big run home. I think two bonus point losses are more likely which will see them finish with 20 points.

5th  – Rebels on 7 competition points 

Amanaki Mafi, Rebels v Panasonic Wild Knights

Amanaki Mafi, Rebels v Panasonic Wild Knights

Draw:

Rnd 12 – Reds (H)

Rnd 13 – Waratahs (A)

Rnd 14 – Crusaders (H)

Rnd 15 – Brumbies (A)

Rnd 16 – Force (A)

Rnd 17 – Jaguares (H)

Snapshot:

The Rebels are somewhat the masters of their own destiny with matches against each of the other Aussie Conference teams. If they can win those, they can finish on top of the Aussie log! Remarkable. Unfortunately three of those games are on the road which won’t make the job easier. Any thoughts of another upset win over the Crusaders should be washed away, but a last round match against the Jaguares is there for the taking.

Crystal balling:

I don’t see things turning around for the Rebels despite the return of Sean McMahon, and perhaps a few others. I actually think their next win will be that last round one against the Jags (watch this come back and bite me this weekend when they host the Reds). It’s a game too early to expect McMahon to make a significant difference and after that they take on the Tahs, Crusaders and Brumbies.

Final Points:

Sorry Melbourne readers but I can only see four points, perhaps a loss bonus or two, meaning the Rebels will end up on 12 points.


Well that’s a fairly boring conclusion. That the Aussie conference won’t change from what we see of it today and that the Brumbies will be our sole representative in the finals.

Ironically, after tipping them to finish with the wooden spoon on our podcast a week or so ago, I think the Force are in a position to make a strong statement on their run home. If they can win in Buenos Aires this weekend then they are in an excellent position for a strong finals run.

  • Brumby Runner

    From your projections Reg, the Force will actually overtake the Reds on the ladder at the end of the year. And given the apparently random way some of the derby results seem to come out, the run home might not be quite so boring as it seems now.

    The Tahs might not be so harshly done by this weekend, having the bye. Remember only last weekend, the Brumbies had the bye and only the Tahs made any headway towards them on the ladder, and then only by one point. The bye has been a strong opponent in the Aus conference this year.

    For the Brumbies to continue to lead, they need to turn a couple of those bonus point type losses into wins. Advancing by one point per week will keep them near the top, but each win they have from here on will make it quite hard for the other sides to overtake them.

    • mutley

      As a Brumby member almost since their inception, I looked to this year as a rebuilding year once Christian was diagnosed.
      Then we started ok and there was some promise.
      Then they regressed.
      But if things had been slightly different in some of those games, particularly the lack of experience in the halves, some of those bonus point losses would be wins and we’d be a lot higher.
      The SA sides are not necessarily that good either, given their W/L against Kiwi sides. And just think of where the Lions were before the last 2 years…

      .Not sure what my point is – more of a brain dump.

  • Duncher

    It just feels to me like we’ll have five teams finish in equal fifth… It’s kinda all we deserve

  • Rebels3

    Injuries will determine everything here. If Cooper/Kerevi goes down, the reds wont win a game. If Foley/Kepu goes down the Tahs wont win a game. If Hawera goes down the Brums wont win a game. If Lance/DHP goes down the Force wont win a game and if McMahon/Mafi goes down the Rebels wont win a game

  • John Tynan

    sigh….

  • Brendan Hume

    It’s really incredible that not one of our teams looks to be competitive outside our conference. The style of play and the apparent lack of ticker (whether caused by confidence, coaching, conditioning, contracting or any combination of the aforementioned) is really heartbreaking to watch.
    This is the most embarrassed I’ve ever been to be involved in Australian Rugby – maybe the mid-70’s were bad, but I wasn’t around then…

    • Sam

      I found this article interesting today:

      https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/may/09/australian-rugby-currently-languishing-about-10-years-behind-new-zealand

      In short, it’s saying that a very structured and prescriptive Australian coaching approach put in place 10 or 15 years ago hasn’t really changed even though other teams have worked them out.

      Coaching is of course only one factor, but there is certainly an argument that could be made saying that the Australian teams have been “over coached” to a system and now don’t trust their instincts to play what’s in front of them, counter attack (witness Horwitz’s kick on Saturday), etc.

      • Adrian

        Great article link in Sam’s post.
        Worth a read, but good summary anyway Sam

      • Brendan Hume

        That’s really good and all quite true. The Aussie team that really broke that mould was the Reds 2011 – the Tahs 2014 were no where near as creative, but rather focused on the big ball carriers, big defence and limited mistakes.

        The only thing I’d argue against in that article is the difference being in the attempts to counter attack from turnover ball. Australian teams try and do this, but the skill level of the Australian teams is so far behind NZ it’s ridiculous.

        In fairness, the Saffers are 12L-1W v NZ sides, so not that far ahead of Australia…

        There was an interesting read recently that spoke about the Argies having some of the best academy set ups going, and that Argentinian rugby will be developing the types of players that will be competing with the skills of the kiwis.

      • Adrian

        I think a key thing is how to defend against a first phase attack.
        There are 3 things we have to do:
        1. Get the idea of defending a certain way in a certain part of the field OUT OF PLAYERS HEADS. That was useful when teams attacked a certain way in certain parts of the field, but isn’t relevant now.
        2. Stop the switching of player positions between attack and defence ala Nathan Grey. The switching happens during the 1st and 2nd phases of turnover ball, which means that many defenders are out of position.
        3. Get a specialist defensive strategist, if necessary from Rugby League. Don’t just get anyone, but someone who really knows about this stuff such as Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy. That would be better value for money than buying not quite brilliant League players

  • Jason

    While us Reds fans have been saying it all year, there is a possibility (yes a small one but it’s there) of the Reds winning all of their final five games (and a real possibility of winning four of those five). Winning four of their final five game and perhaps getting a bonus point loss for the fifth (you’d imagine the Rebels and Force would both be four point wins), could see them at the top of the conference.

    And a Reds team that lucks their way into a home final is a very undesirable match up for any team, as they are one of those teams who their day could get the better of anyone in Super Rugby.

    • Twoilms

      I have to disagree with you mate. Reds (or any Aus. team) would stand 0 chance of beating a Kiwi team (or the Lions) in a finals match. None.

      They also stand next to no chance of winning all five of their remaining matches, which would be more wins than they’ve had in the preceding 11 rounds.

    • Brian

      I would say that the Red’s will go into two of the games as enormous underdogs (Blues and Highlanders), one game as quite an underdog (Brumbies) and two games as even-or-slightly-better.

      Put it this way: The Reds are MUCH more likely to lose their last 5 than win them all.

  • Hoss

    As bad as it is today there is always tomorrow.

    ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’ JFK.

    Lets hope these lows are the turning points for stronger tomorrow.

    • juswal

      JFK missed the future anyway.

      • BigNickHartman

        home run

  • Tommy Brady

    A very sobering story backed up by the fact that Australian teams currently lie on a traditional table 10, 12, 15, 16, 17. However, compare those to final 2016 positions of 8, 10, 12, 15, 16 and you’ll find the actual rate of deterioration to be less alarming.

    So what’s the point? The point is the writing was very much on the wall 12 months ago and little has been done to address it. Sonehow people here want to blame the competition itself for the current demise of Australian rugby and yet for years now Australian sides have had to play NZ sides and always make 1 2 game trip to South Africa. Through 11 weeks of this year’s competition, Australian sides are 0-17 versus NZ sides and 3-27-1 versus non-Australian sides with 2 of those 3 wins coming in home matches versus the Kings. How the structure of the competition has led to those results is beyond me.

    There are multiple reasons why Australian Super Rugby sides are no longer competitive. A key one to me is too few players fail to feel any real competitive threat to win and retain a Super Rugby contract. Watch that number get dramatically reduced and then watch players prepare, train, play and behave like a professional. Only then will the tide turn. Until then, the combined forces that have led to the current mess will remain in effect. Meaningful improvement can only come from meaningful change.

    • Missing Link

      and watch those fringe players who could get a regular gig with the Rebels or Force sign overseas and create an even bigger hole between Super Rugby and Club Rugby. I don’t know if you read the other day we lost Sam Figg to Japan – this guy dominated the NRC in Hanigan’s team, so someone was watching because they signed Hanigan to the Tahs but somhow Figg was invisible. We need 5 teams to give opportunity to as many players as we can in our comp. They should be fighting for Wallaby selection and ARU contracts, that is a higher honour than Super Rugby will ever be. Maybe that’s the problem, players are happy being mediocre super rugby players because no matter how hard they try, your Dean Mumms and Nick Phipps are automatic Wallaby selections.

      Our other problem is coaching and strength and conditioning. the injury toll this year is ridiculous for starters, then there is the unimaginative, going through the motions play which all 5 teams seem to have implement. What the hell is wrong with them.

      • Tommy Brady

        So if Sam Figg dominated in the NRC why was he not picked up by a Super Rugby team?

        Those fringe players getting a gig with the Force or Rebels you refer to are helping no-one. Australian rugby needs to work that out. They do not make those franchises better, they do not challenge the 1st choice players for positions, they do not elevate the level of the Australian conference and they do not compete for Wallaby selection. They are filling rosters and that is all. Sure if the number of teams gets reduced, a few will be lost to 2nd-3rd tier competitions in Japan, France or Ireland but who cares? Success in professional rugby comes from quality not quantity. A squad full of poor/average players will give you poor/average results. A conference full of poor/average teams will give you poor/average performances.

        Australian rugby needs to focus on a smaller universe of elite players and make them better skilled and therefore more competitive. This will fuel heightened competition for playing spots. Teams will feel greater urgency to win and the Wallaby team will have a deeper pool of player talent to draw from. Right now Australian rugby feels a very long way from any of those necessary dynamics. The results now for 2 years are proving it.

        • Missing Link

          So we’ve been going along OK with 5 teams since 2011, but poor results over the last 2 years means we need to consolidate.

          At the end of the day our players aren’t being conditioned or coached correctly. We field the same amount of players as NZ, we both have a mix of anglo and islander players. Why are they so much better, they have better admin, better coaching and better conditioning. That’s where we are lagging behind.

          They seem to have the desire to push eachother further, they can maintain a desire to win

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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