Super Rugby AU has the full spotlight of Southern Hemisphere rugby fans from this weekend forward. The round kicks underway when the travelling Western Force are at “home” against the resurgent Queensland Reds on Friday night. On Saturday evening, the Brumbies, who are actually one of the few sides who can play at home, will host the NSW Waratahs. Lets check out the two matches…..
FORCE vs REDS
Its been a tough old season in the Force’s return to Super Rugby AU. They are still yet to pick up a victory but with the rounds quickly running out its tough to see them grabbing the win this weekend. As the season has worn on, the Force run on side has been lifting in strength as injuries return to fitness. The concern for the force this weekend is the absence of the key back rowers, Henry Stowers and Tevin Ferris. Brynard Stander remains at number eight but his combination that developed over the season has been the key to their success.
The front row looks much stronger again with the additions of Pek Cowan and former Red Andrew Ready starting together. The Force have developed as a side who fire out of the blocks the entertain and ultimately fall away to a team who has some idea how to construct a full eighty minute game with most of these changes.
Of course we cant wrap up with the Force without talking about the impact the midfield combination has had on this team. Kyle Godwin has been dragged up from his mediocre performances by Richard Kahui. Those two together work in tandem very well and not only added those stacks of experience but also a belief within the squad with how they play.
The biggest missing name in the Reds lineup is the injured Hunter Paisami, which makes a little bit of a mess with their midfield. What I thought would be the obvious answer is to put Jordan Petaia into thirteen and plug the right wing from the bench of Flook or Hardy. Instead, Josh Flook has come straight into midfield with a direct swap, leaving Petaia out on the wing.
With the Force mixing up their back row options and leaving out the big names that have served so well, it gives a huge advantage to the Reds who have named their three standouts in those same positions. Captain Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and impressive number eight Harry Wilson will again stack the back of the very impressive looking Reds pack.
Two weeks ago the Reds had a nightmare weekend against the Waratahs, easily the lowest point of their season so far. The lessons must be learnt from that and the response that we saw, particularly on defence against the Rebel was a welcome return. Brad Thorn wont let this side sit around on performances like two weeks ago, now it goes back to that main word we keep talking about, consistency.
RESULT – Reds by 13
BRUMBIES vs WARATAHS
Is facing the Waratahs an easy win like the Force has been? Or is it a real top of the table clash. We really don’t know. The Waratahs are a side that can step it up or completely fall to pieces. Against the Brumbies however, I expect we will see their better rugby rise again.
The Brumbies have been some exciting looking selections to their side too for this match.
For week after week, Tevita Kuridrani has just ambled his way through the season as part of a good performing side without really making an impact. That ends this weekend as his place in the side is gone and he makes way for another similar player from the wing in Solomone Kata. Now we see if Kuridrani has been sub par this season. Kata is fast, powerful and difficult to tackle. Moving him in off the wing will give him more ball in more traffic and look out if the Waratahs don’t make their defensive plays on him.
The Brumbies have mixed up their halves combination again too, reuniting a Junior Wallabies partnership with Ryan Lonergan and Bayley Kuenzle in the halves together. A new one for the Brumbies but I expect the two youngsters will know each others game well from previous encounters.
The Brumbies have the glorious ability to make changes like these while still keeping a strong lineup, which just goes to shop the depth this team possesses.
The work has been set for the sporadic Waratahs. This is not a game they can rest on and beating the front runners like the Brumbies are is the sort of thing the Waratahs thrive on.
Their side in largely unchanged for this weekend which will come as some comfort for the side.
The Waratahs have struggled for points in a lot of games this season, aside from the Reds match, often struggling to convert those try scoring chances and having a lack of flair to score tries.
How do they solve the issues? Well, I’d be on the Waratahs staff if I could answer that, but when the pack often holds its own against opposition then it must be looked at where it goes wrong outside there.
With the young fly half like Will Harrison often leading the charge, his fellow backs are not following his lead. Karmichael Hunt made a small impact on his return but the man who has struck a difference in this team is Jake Gordon.
Gordon is a fully committed player who, as all good scrum halves should, will be following up any half breaks, any chances and be one of the first in support to the ball carrier and that’s why hes often the man celebrating the five pointers.
While I think they Waratahs will be at the party for this match, the Brumbies have been burnt already this season and are a far to professional side to let slip again. The Waratahs have always struggled to put eighty minutes together without have some kid of breakdown during the match, that’s all the Brumbies will need.
RESULT – Brumbies by 6
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