Former Blues captain James Parsons believes the Australian teams are in a good position to cause some upsets over their New Zealand counterparts in the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.
The tournament will pit the five Kiwi Super Rugby franchises against the five Australian sides for the first time in more than a year following the announcement of a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries last month.
Most expect the New Zealand teams to dominate their cross-border rivals as they have done in years gone by, but Parsons says that lack of expectation serves the Australian clubs well heading into the Trans-Tasman competition.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, the ex-All Blacks hooker said only the Reds and Brumbies, the two sides competing in this weekend’s Super Rugby AU final, will have any kind of expectation on them to deliver results.
Even then, he suggested the New Zealand sides will be under the most pressure to prove that they are still more dominant than their neighbours across the ditch.
“I think the Australian sides are well-placed because there’s no expectation,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“Maybe a little bit on the Reds and the Brumbies, but I think a lot of the expectation is going on the Kiwi sides and that puts a lot of pressure for them to deliver, whereas the Aussies have got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Parsons added that the new competition give the teams that missed out on the finals of their respective domestic leagues a chance at redemption and an opportunity to learn and develop from teams they haven’t played in a long time.
“I know I sort of just spoke about the Rebels taking their threes and going back to a philosophy that worked for them, but there’s a lot to be gained for those [Australian] teams in this Trans-Tasman [competition] and a lot to be gained for the three teams that missed out on the final over here [in New Zealand].”
The last time two teams from New Zealand and Australia clashed came on March 6 last year, when the Crusaders pipped the Reds 24-20 in Christchurch and the Chiefs thrashed the Waratahs 51-14 in Wollongong.
That season, the Kiwi sides won five of their seven matches against Australian franchises in a Super Rugby season that was cut short after seven rounds due to COVID-19.
New Zealand’s dominance over Australia was felt at test level as well as the All Blacks won the Bledisloe Cup for the 18th straight year by picking up two wins and a draw in a four-match series against the Wallabies.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 4, 2021
However, Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall warned those from New Zealand teams who haven’t played in Australia since the pandemic started, or at all, of the challenges that come with playing away from home in another country.
“Going over to Australia, it’s completely different. It’s a different type of time that you’re playing at, it’s a different environment,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“I can imagine the Crusaders vs the Reds at Suncorp [Stadium] with the amount of Kiwis that are over there that haven’t been able to watch Kiwi teams – we always have so much support and Kiwis have so much support in Brisbane or whatever city it is in Australia – and so that kind of cauldron, it’s so tough to play there.
“It’s a different type of landscape, so that’ll bring the excitement in and bring more to what Kiwi teams aren’t used to.
“A lot of guys probably haven’t played in Australia, bar the All Blacks, so it’s going to be another opportunity for Australian teams to have an advantage.
“For us, we’re going to have to be able to try and adapt and understand that it’s a little bit different going over to play in Australia.”
The first round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman will kick-off next Friday when the Highlanders host the Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
That same day, the Waratahs will take on the Hurricanes at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a battle between the two wooden-spooners from Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The following day, the Crusaders will host the Brumbies in Christchurch, the Rebels will take on the Blues in Melbourne, and the Force will play the Chiefs in Perth.
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
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