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Phil Waugh's 'important' challenge to Australia's Super Rugby teams

By AAP
(L-R) Waratahs captain Jake Gordon, Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa, Rebels captain Rob Leota, Force captain Michael Wells and Reds captain Tate McDermott at the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific Season Launch on February 14, 2024 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Phil Waugh is challenging Australia’s under-performing Super Rugby sides to finally stand up to their New Zealand rivals for the sake of the Wallabies and the ailing code in general.

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The All Blacks have enjoyed a mortgage-like hold on the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, way back when Waugh was still playing.

Now the champion flanker turned Rugby Australia chief executive is offering advice on how the Wallabies can break the embarrassing 21-year series-winning drought.

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And it’s not exactly rocket science: start beating the Kiwis at Super Rugby and that might help when it comes to Test time.

Last year, the benchmark ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force managed just six wins from a combined 30 matches against their trans-Tasman foes in Super Rugby.

Even that 20 per cent winning strike rate was an improvement on two decades of NZ beat-downs that includes a humiliating combined low of none-from-31 return against the Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues, Hurricanes and Highlanders in 2017.

When it comes to play-off matches in New Zealand, it’s even worse.

The Kiwis have won all 15 trans-Tasman finals encounters since the competition began in 1996 and Australian victories on NZ soil have become alarmingly rare.

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But in 2015, when the Brumbies and Waratahs both made the Super Rugby semi-finals, the Wallabies reached the World Cup final in England.

“There’s a strong correlation between having a successful Wallaby team and how we perform at Super Rugby level and it’s important for our Super Rugby team to set up the season for the Wallabies,” Waugh said ahead of the competition start on Friday.

“There’s been challenges around our competitiveness in Super Rugby, and we’ve seen that go through into the late stage of the tournament.

“Ideally, you see our five Super Rugby teams consistently winning and beating New Zealand teams.”

Waugh was reticent to offer a “pass mark” for the Australian teams against Kiwi opposition in 2024.

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“All I know is that every game that you go into, we want to have our Australian sides a genuine chance to win,” he said.

“I don’t want to be too optimistic but, from early signs in the trials, it appears that we’re prepared.

“It’s going to be how we perform in the games this weekend and, ideally, we get off to a fast start for all our Super Rugby teams.”

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