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Super Rugby's power balance shifting to Australia as New Zealand teams slump

By AAP
Reds celebrate a Suliasi Vunivalu try after the final siren during the round nine Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, on April 19, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The door is ajar for Australia’s Super Rugby Pacific teams to tip the win-loss ledger against New Zealand sides in their favour in the race to win that trans-Tasman battle for the first time.

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Heading into round 10, when there are five trans-Tasman battles as part of Anzac Day round, Australian teams have won seven games against Kiwi rivals, who have claimed eight.

They have already bettered last year’s effort, when the benchmark ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force managed just six wins from a combined 30 matches.

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That 20 per cent winning strike rate in 2023 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.

Melbourne Rebels and Wallabies fullback Andrew Kellaway said while it was a positive statistic there were still six rounds to play before Australian sides could claim any kind of moral victory.

“It’s awesome how the Australian Super teams are going at the moment,” said Kellaway, with the Rebels facing the Crusaders on Friday night in Christchurch.

“That being said … there’s still a lot of rugby to be played and a lot of tough rugby to be played.

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Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
5
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
48
14
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
60%

“We (the Rebels) have only really played the Highlanders and Hurricanes so we’ve got a lot of tough games coming up against Kiwi teams and so do the rest of the Aussie teams.

“So I think yes, acknowledge where we are at as I think it’s been a really good start, certainly better than past years, but we’re still a long way from where we want to be.”

That 20 per cent winning strike rate in 2023 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.

Melbourne Rebels and Wallabies fullback Andrew Kellaway said while it was a positive statistic there were still six rounds to play before Australian sides could claim any kind of moral victory.

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“It’s awesome how the Australian Super teams are going at the moment,” said Kellaway, with the Rebels facing the Crusaders on Friday night in Christchurch.

“That being said … there’s still a lot of rugby to be played and a lot of tough rugby to be played.

“We (the Rebels) have only really played the Highlanders and Hurricanes so we’ve got a lot of tough games coming up against Kiwi teams and so do the rest of the Aussie teams.

“So I think yes, acknowledge where we are at as I think it’s been a really good start, certainly better than past years, but we’re still a long way from where we want to be.”

Team Form

Last 5 Games

1
Wins
1
3
Streak
4
20
Tries Scored
14
2
Points Difference
-57
2/5
First Try
2/5
2/5
First Points
3/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

The Rebels sit at a historic high for this point in the season, fourth on the ladder, with the Brumbies in third, while the table-topping Hurricanes are unbeaten and the Blues in second.

The Australians have been helped by the shock fall of the Crusaders, winners of the last five combined competitions, who are currently ranked last with just one win.

Kellaway said the next step for the Aussies was to deliver more consistently if they wanted to break a nine-year title drought, with the Waratahs the last team victorious in 2014.

“The challenge for us is not beating these guys every now and then, it’s doing it consistently and that’s across the board for Australian teams and then into the Wallabies,” the 28-year-old said.

“I think I can speak for Australian teams at large to say we want to be competing consistently and winning those games with the guys across the ditch.”

Sixth-placed Queensland host the Blues on Saturday night and are 2-1 against New Zealand sides this year, including an extra-time loss to the unbeaten Hurricanes.

They haven’t beaten two Kiwi teams in the same season since 2013, but they have also lost to the struggling Western Force and Moana Pasifika.

“We know how big of a clash it is. At 4-4 we’ve played some good footy and let some others slip,” Reds No.8 Harry Wilson said.

“We have played our best footy against the Kiwi sides; it’s always the games you want to step up and play some good footy.

“It’s really satisfying as we had a pretty poor record and the only way we could change that was to go out and get some wins.

“It feels like we’ve made some real progress there and it’ll be another opportunity this weekend.”

SUPER RUGBY PACIFIC ANZAC ROUND

Queensland (6th) v Blues (2nd)

NSW Waratahs (9th) v Chiefs (5th)

Highlanders (10th) v Western Force (11th)

Crusaders (12th) v Melbourne (4th)

ACT Brumbies (3rd) v Hurricanes (1st)

Fijian Drua (7th) v Moana Pasifika (8th)

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