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FEATURE Brumbies and Reds primed to fly Aussie flag furthest

Brumbies and Reds primed to fly Aussie flag furthest
2 months ago

With just four rounds to play before the Super Rugby Pacific Finals series begins, it’s natural that attention begins to turn towards teams’ run home and all the mathematical equations that come with it.

From an Australian point of view, when you look at the remaining four games for the five teams, the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds are not just best placed to fly the flag into the finals, but also comfortably the best equipped to achieve success.

Remaining regular-season games (Rounds 12-15):

ACT Brumbies (3rd – 8 wins from 10 games, 35 points): Waratahs (A), Crusaders (H), Rebels (H), Force (A)

Queensland Reds (5th – 5 wins, 27 points): Rebels (H), Fijian Drua (A), Force (H), Waratahs (A)

Melbourne Rebels (6th – 5 wins, 24 points): Reds (A), Chiefs (H), Brumbies (A), Fijian Drua (A)

NSW Waratahs (11th – 2 wins, 12 points): Brumbies (H), Force (A), Moana Pasifika (A), Reds (H)

Western Force (12th – 2 wins, 10 points): Fijian Drua (H), Waratahs (A), Reds (A), Brumbies (H)

It’s clear the Brumbies have the best run home, maybe the best of any team in the entire competition.

Whereas the current top two, the Hurricanes and Blues, face each other this weekend as well as both meeting the fourth-placed Chiefs in the final two rounds, the Brumbies will play the three current bottom-ranked sides as well as the very up-and-down Melbourne Rebels.

With the top New Zealand teams taking points off each other over the remaining rounds, the Brumbies’ super-impressive demolition of the previously unbeaten Hurricanes recently has almost become worth double points – and leaves them in a strong position to contend for a top-two finish and home-ground advantage that comes with it.

Len Ikitau
ACT have their sights on a top-two finish after following up their win over Hurricanes by beating Fijian Drua (Photo Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

What will become vital along the way home is bonus points, and while the Brumbies have done a lot right in 2024, only three teams have fewer bonus points and they are all in the bottom five.

The Brumbies missed a chance to take one from their win over the Fijian Drua in Canberra on Saturday, and that’s something they won’t be able to repeat too often over these next four weeks. In short, if they want to finish top two, they need to put teams away properly on their way to big wins.

After breaking a 25-year Christchurch drought against the Crusaders on the weekend, Queensland’s remaining month has their fans looking up, with the Drua in Suva on Saturday week a tricky but not impossible mission.

The road ahead for the Melbourne Rebels looks rocky, and that’s without considering everything that’s happening regarding their future off the field.

The Drua’s one loss at home this year has come at the National Stadium, and this will give the Reds an extra degree of confidence than if they were playing in the cauldron of Churchill Park in Lautoka.

Currently six points adrift of the Chiefs in fourth place, the Reds can certainly amass enough points on paper to finish in the top four, but their actual ability to do it will depend on other results falling their way, especially those of the top three Kiwi sides playing each other.

The ideal scenario for Queensland would involve the Chiefs dropping one or both games to the Hurricanes and Blues, but on current form you’d be awfully bold to tip it. The Chiefs started the season as overwhelming competition favourites, and after a bit of a mid-season plateau, they appear to be regaining that early season form in a big way.

The road ahead for the Melbourne Rebels looks rocky, and that’s without considering everything that’s happening regarding their future off the field.

Rob Leota
The Rebels’ home defeat by the Blues last Friday followed a heavy loss to Crusaders (Photo Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Currently sixth, the next three weeks sees them play the teams running fifth, fourth and third, and all with better form lines at the moment than the Rebels.

Three straight wins before their bye had jolted the Rebels to fourth in the standings, their highest position by that point of the season in their existence. But since the week off, they’ve suffered heavy losses to the Crusaders in Christchurch and then to the Blues back in Melbourne.

To put their season in perspective, their five wins has them on track for an historic maiden Super Rugby Pacific Finals series, but in 2024 they’re also the only Australian team to have lost to the Crusaders so far (and think about that for a stat), while only Moana Pasifika has conceded more tries and points per game than them.

The Waratahs will need a combination of a miracle turnaround in form, medical witchcraft and several top teams imploding just to reach five wins

New South Wales look in an even worse state. Eleventh on the table and with an injury list lengthening by the week, the Waratahs will need a combination of a miracle turnaround in form, medical witchcraft and several top teams imploding just to reach five wins, and even that might not be enough to scrape into eighth place.

With dates against the Brumbies this weekend and the Reds in the final round to come, the Waratahs’ frustrating run looks like it will limp to the end, which seems apt for a team that has already used a dozen different players in the front row, as well as another three yet to take the field this season.

And it’s hard to see how those fortunes will improve for NSW. Defeat by the Brumbies this weekend will only push a finals berth that much further away again.

Kurtley Beale
Kurtley Beale’s Western Force took a battering by Chiefs to leave them propping up the Super Rugby Pacific table (Photo Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

The Western Force’s last month looks no better, starting with the Drua at home in Perth this weekend, and finishing with the Reds and Brumbies on consecutive weekends to round out the regular season.

Like the Waratahs, the Force can also get to the five-win target that was enough for the Reds to reach the finals last season, but five was also insufficient for the Highlanders and the Force themselves to miss the play-offs completely.

It’s been a rough season for the Force. After a period of strong off-season recruitment, they had a squad that looked like it would finish a whole lot higher than it inevitably will. It’s been their great shame that they’ve not been able to achieve the position that seemed likely before a ball was kicked back in February.

So the Brumbies and Reds are the teams that look most likely from an Australian point of view over the next month, with questions focused on whether they can both finish in the top four, and avoid each other until the final.

Harry Wilson
The Reds will enter their final four games buoyed by a first win in Christchurch for 25 years (Photo Sanka Vidanagama/AFP via Getty Images)

The Reds have beaten three of five New Zealand sides this season already, and the Brumbies can equal that with a win over the Crusaders in Canberra on 18 May.

The Reds have the most bonus points in the competition, which could become very handy as they edge closer to the top four, an attack only topped currently by the three top Kiwi sides, and the giddy confidence that comes from beating the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Brumbies have the determination to go further than the semi-final losses of the last two seasons, an attack that is building at the right time of the year, and in Noah Lolesio, the most consistent game manager of the Australian 10s this season and the leading goal-kicker in the competition right now.

Both ACT and Queensland are well equipped to go deep into the Super Rugby Pacific Finals, but they also have their destiny in their own hands.

While they keep winning, they can climb higher on the ladder. And the higher they can climb, Super Rugby history tells us the better position they will be in for success.

Comments

11 Comments
M
Mitch 67 days ago

I’m hoping that the Reds can win their last 4 games with a couple of try bonus points. The pessimist in me wouldn't be surprised if the Drua and the Tahs knock the Reds over. The Reds may end up ruing the fact they were distinctly 2nd best against the Force and just so clunky against Moana Pasifica.

The Brumbies should win all their remaining games with some bonus points giving them at least a top 2 finish as the leading Kiwi sides will take points off each other. How the Brumbies handle the fact that they will be expected to beat the Crusaders will fascinate me. You’d probably have to go back to 2001 for the last time the Brumbies would go into a game against the Crusaders odds on to win.

S
Shaylen 68 days ago

Brumbies are looking good and if they keep their home form up a final is not beyond the realms of possibility. They showed against the Hurricanes exactly how clinical they can be as they absorbed pressure in that contest while also scoring points and applying their own pressure. Reds are well placed as well but need to find consistency. They are building a longer term project with a young side and plenty of quality players. Been surprising to see the strength of Aussie sides this year after the debacle of the world cup. Have NZ sides gotten weaker? Have Aussie sides gotten stronger? A bit of both I would say. Whatever the case its good to see some actual competition between NZ and Aus sides again and thats exactly what the fans wanted and is probably driving better viewership numbers. All of this can only be healthy for Aus and Super Rugby and I hope the Brumbies go all the way.

J
JD Kiwi 68 days ago

Those are pretty good draws for the two top Aussie teams. I certainly wouldn't want my Chiefs to have a quarter final in Brisbane.

None of the top teams will want the Crusaders.

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