It is Tuesday, so I must yet again climb atop the soapbox to educate the masses. Listen in, because I am not going to say this again…
5. Alarm bells for the Reds
They had a Barry Crocker on Saturday night. A real Fremantle Docker. An absolute Sav Rocca. The error rate was off the charts, and they practically handed the Force the match (that is not to take anything away from the visitors, they were tenacious). As much as I would love to write this game as a one-off, bad-day-at-the-office scenario, this has been on the cards for a while now. Their win-loss record belied the performance of the team, which was a bit down on previous years. With Faingaa, Horwill and Genia back in the fold you would hope for performances to improve, but the next few weeks look to be crucial as the Reds try and steady the ship. All is far from lost, they were in far worse shape at certain points last year.
As for the Force, I said on the podcast a few weeks ago that they are going to surprise a few teams this year.They play good footy generally, and are far from the easybeats that some seem to think. I predict they will win only 4 or 5 games this season, but there will be a few quality sides in that number. The next one will be the Crusaders in April.
4. Wallaby 10 watch
Kurtley Beale has to be a solid favourite to start at 10 in the first test against the Lions. Quade Cooper looked to be headed in the right direction but in my view has taken a few big steps backwards in the past few weeks. His performances have been error-strewn and completely lacking in composure. So if you strike him out (he will have to produce something pretty special in the next few weeks to be back on the radar) then you are really only left with Beale, JOC, Toomua, Lealiifano and Barnes as viable options. Each option has its pros and cons, but as the incumbent you would think Beale will be the one in the hot seat. JOC, Lealiifano and Barnes aren’t playing regularly at 10 (unless Damian Hill has a change of heart), and Toomua and Lilo are still a little bit too green (plus it isn’t hard to look good behind a shit-hot Brumbies pack). Kurtley isn’t playing brilliantly at the moment, but I can’t see any other alternative. Or am I missing something?
3. Time for Tah Talk
The loss to the Cheetahs was no disgrace, unlike the same fixture in 2011. The Waratahs played well for 60 minutes, but lost the game in the first and last 10 minutes. In the context of a side rebuilding from a horrible season this is not a terrible result, and the 2013 Cheetahs are the best the competition has ever seen. You give them an inch and they take a mile. But let’s not gloss over the errors, and there were plenty. Too much dropped ball, not enough composure in our own 22 and a languid backline all contributed to the loss. On the bright side, Paddy Ryan and Peter Betham both showed the form that made them schoolboy prodigies (alongside Kurtley in the 06 Joeys team). They have locked down spots in the Tahs team for at least a month.
I call on all Tahs fans to get to the Blues game on Sunday afternoon. The forecast is looking good, and the match should be a belter. We need to unite behind our team, so get to the game and bring a few mates.
2. My Predicted Final Table
The wheat has now been largely sorted from the chaff. The champs from the chumps. Here is my final table. From first to last:
Chiefs, Brumbies, Blues, Stormers, Bulls, Crusaders, Reds, Sharks, Waratahs, Hurricanes, Cheetahs, Rebels, Highlanders, Force, Kings
I have just saved you 15 weeks. You’re welcome.
1. The Brumbies might be OK this year
You know what, I reckon the Brumbies might have a half decent year this year. They will certainly win more than they lose (you heard it here first).
But in all seriousness, their win on Sunday morning was mighty impressive. The first half performance was one of the most clinically dominant efforts I have ever seen from an Aussie side. It reminded me of the All Blacks- brutal dominance up front, followed by a flawless execution of the basics in the backline. And like the All Blacks their fans are now coming out of the woodwork to chew your ear off at work/pub/weekend detention.
How about that depth? Sio and Kuridrani come from nowhere to play like champions. And I’d love to see Fotu in a gold jersey at some point- he is the only player in Aussie rugby at the moment who can really hurt people.
Their tries weren’t ‘play of the week’ material, but they were all well-crafted and perfectly carried out. They got a bit silly in the second half (shouldn’t have been pushing so hard for pointless extra tries), but in reality the game was well won by then. I was impressed by the Sharks in the first few weeks, but they seem to have gone off the boil. With an all-Bok line-up it is hard to see why this is happening, a bit like at the Tahs.
So my question for the week- is Jake White now the Wallaby coach in waiting? Answer in 300 words with at least two references to Kafka’s Metamorphosis and one to Max Walker’s How to Hypnotise Chooks.
Over to you, peanut gallery. What hideous oversights have I made this week? Ready, aim…