Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Super Rugby 2012 Profiles - The Australian teams

A few days back we took a look at a formidable New Zealand conference that has one or two sides that could well challenge for top honours in this year's Super Rugby tournament. Today silver tongued Tony O'Sullivan talks us through the Australian teams, which produced the winner last year, and tells us where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

The long time bottom feeders of the Super Rugby world are now the champions. Yup, the Reds took the biscuits in 2011 and pulled off what no one thought was possible. It was a helluva impressive effort. Aussie praising makes me feel like I need a shower.

They did it on the back of some Wallaby superstars and some dude from Tokoroa. That dude is of course Quade Don't mention the World Cup Cooper. Incredible talent but currently injured and unlikely to play until week 7.

The Reds also have, in my opinion, the best wing in the world at the moment, Digby Ioane, and the guy with the best haircut, Radike Samo. Last year the balance of the team was perfect, but can they go back-to-back? They have shown they have the talent and the coach, but accomodating for Cooper's absence early on will be crucial.

Notable Losses:
Will Chambers
Notable Signings: No one really of note.
Biggest Strength: Creativity and belief.
Biggest Weakness: Losing shape and sticking to the basics if attack isn't working like it should.
One to watch: Digby Ioane.

The Rebels. It's never easy for a new club in it's infant years and the Melbournians (I don't know if any of them are actually from Melbourne) have some tough tasks ahead of them in 2012. Not only do they need to put in consistent good performances and avoid the wooden spoon to provide legitimacy of a 5th Aussie side, but they need to create ongoing interest from the public in an AFL stronghold that has trouble supporting one of the most successful NRL teams in history.

Melbourne have picked up special talent Kurtley chicks dig my dirty Sanchez mo Beale and along with James  O'Connor, Mark Gerrard, and Stirling Mortlock their back line has some quality fire power. Can their forwards get quality ball to these guys? Probably not, and with the exception of amusingly named Hugh Pyle, the forward pack just doesn't look like they have the right stuff to match it Super Rugby this year.

Notable Losses: JP du Plessis, Luke Rooney, Greg Somerville
Notable Signings: Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor
Biggest Strength: Classy Backs
Biggest Weakness: No name forwards.
One to watch: Beale if he has the dirty sanchez mo, James O'Connor if he shaves it.

The Force are looking.. well... not good this season if truth be told. The Aussie battlers have suffered crucial losses in the form of Bieber lookalike James O'Connor and their player of the year in 2011, David Smith. After last years 12th place finish losing those attacking threats is a big blow.

They do posses one of the best no 7s in the game in David Poccock, who in tandem with Bryce Lawrence  was partially responsible for knocking the meat eaters out of the World Cup. The rest of their squad is made up of blokes who are bit past it or are yet to really make their mark on the Super Rugby world.

The Force really need to have a big one this year as they are no longer Super Rugby infants. It's imperative that they deliver better results for their loyal fans.

Notable Losses: James O'Connor, Matt Dunning, David Smith.
Notable Signings: Winston Stanley, Salesian Ma'afu
Biggest Strength: David Pocock pilfering ball at the breakdown.
Biggest Weakness: Inability to put on good performances consistently.
One to watch: Winston Stanley.

The Waratahs generally provide a strong challenge for any team that comes up against them, but seem to struggle at crucial times of the year. One look at their squad shows us that it's solid all over the park. They picked up good talent in the form of a man who looks spookily like the devil, Adam Ashley Cooper, and the young meat eater, Sarel Pretorius, who has Springbok written all over him.

In the forwards they have picked up Rocky I'm too old for this shit Elsom who had a far from impressive 2011, but has Waratahs management promising big things from one of the criminal's finest players in the modern error. The rest of their forwards are big, strong, and dynamic.

It would of stung the 'Tahs to see the Reds win the championship before they had, and knowing the nature of that inter-state rivalry, they'll be gunning for the top spot this year.

Notable Losses: Al Baxter, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Ryan Cross, Phil Waugh.
Notable Signings: Adam Ashley Cooper, Rocky Elsom, Sarel Pretorius, Dan Vickerman.
Biggest Strength: Have quality in the team to beat all comers on their day.
Biggest Weakness: It's not always their day, especially at the end of the season.
One to watch: Sarel Pretorius.

The Brumbies, historically Australia's most successful team in Super Rugby, had an absolute Barry crocker of a year in 2011, finishing 13th. I have more bad news for Brumbies fans, it could be worse this year. A number of frontline players have left and not much has come in to replace them.

Their most crucial signing happens to be a World Cup winning Coach, Jake White. The challenge for him is enormous. It is akin to explaining to your Mrs that you're a regular at the pub because you're researching for a book on the dangers of alcoholism.

It's sad to see a once successful organisation get to such a low point. I hope they can discover some hidden gems of talent that will make this year bearable for their fans, but as far as I can see, unless White is a miracle worker they will get drilled by the big teams, and not have class to match it with many others.

Notable Losses: Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom, Adam Ashley Cooper, Mark Chisolm.
Notable Signings: Jake White (coach).
Biggest Strength: Underdog tag.
Biggest Weakness: Not having squad up to Super Rugby Standards.
One to watch: ? I guess you could watch Stephen Moore.

The Australian conference kicks of on Feb 24th (Friday), when the Brumbies host the Force
You can follow Tony O'Sullivan on Twitter here

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