ACT Brumbies

There has been plenty of rugby news over the last couple of days ahead of another big weekend of International Rugby where a couple of two-match tours is about to come to an end, although they do have another match left to play but this time it will be against the lesser sides before we turn our attention to the Rugby 7s at the Summer Olympics in Paris towards the end of this month. Not only that, there’s a huge change coming at the ACT Brumbies in Canberra when it comes to the off-field operations and Club Rugby is back on free-to-air once again via 9Gem that will go for little over a month including Finals beginning this weekend whether if you’re tuning in for the Shute Shield in New South Wales or Hospital Cup in Queensland.

International Rugby

All Blacks were relieved to see off England unscathed by a single point 15-16 in Dunedin while the Wallabies may have a huge task ahead following their disastrous World Cup pool stage run last year but at least a win is a good start to get on top of the under-pressure Wales side 25-16. What’s even better that both sides were able to hold onto their respective series plates, even though the final Test results aren’t guaranteed to see out for sure when they retained them last time around. Now the ABs will head off to Eden Park in Auckland which is place they do so well all the time and Wallabies play at AAMI Park in Melbourne this Saturday. The reception there in Melbourne is going to be mixed when Rugby Australia decided to axe the Melbourne Rebels at season’s end towards the end of May & it won’t be the same without rugby fans going there as if they have no home-supporting player to cheer on for the Green and Gold – despite the team’s one & only rare good season that wrapped up the Rebels’ 14 year existence but again, it was due to financial reasons & the board moved on with the times now.

Predictions: All Blacks to win v England by 13 points and Wallabies to win v Wales by 8 points – so another Southern Hemisphere/Tasman clean sweep then to round off their respective two-match July tours.

Super Rugby 1: Australia

Speaking of Rugby Australia, their plans to have their Super Rugby teams being centralised (similar to the setup in New Zealand and Ireland) has taken another step this week as the ACT Brumbies now became the second team after the NSW Waratahs to hand over their off-field operations to the governing body – such as the high performance, players/staff and the commercial departments. That way, RA will look after both the Brumbies and Waratahs in the hope of getting back to their best while the state-run organizations will focus on getting the best out of Club and Grassroots Rugby – even though the Brumbies is by far the No.1 Australian Super Rugby side every year. They won’t be leaving Canberra after all which is good news, although they might be open to host some games in Melbourne since the Rebels is now gone (again not a merger).

If that happens, then it will be great to see Melbournians return to AAMI Park by getting behind the best Australian Super Rugby team in the Brumbies and that is gonna help inspire the kids there to start playing Rugby in their local area before they can make a name for themselves once they’ve grown up through the junior representative ranks with Rugby Victoria. All of that can be done while the Brumbies will always remain first and foremost in Canberra hoping they can make the Grand Final at last by knicking the championship. Even though Western Force will stay on as Australia’s 4th Super Rugby team, hoping they can get some support from Japan like reviving to boost their on-field performances if they can’t do well next season when a national third-tier competition is back on the cards – as if Japan is the perfect nation to replace South Africa in Super Rugby without having to sacrifice their own Top League competition thanks to the huge amount of seasoned Internationals they’ve got there. Again, most of the home games would come from Perth with some over in Tokyo and Singapore.

Super Rugby 2: New Zealand

Looking across the Ditch a bit in NZ, the Highlanders have re-installed Jamie Joseph as their head coach once again with Clarke Dermody demoting as his No.2 assistant coach. Yes, it was great seeing them enjoy some success in 6th this season but the Highlanders still have a long way to go if they want to challenge the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes someday since their last championship back in 2015 under Joseph during his 1st spell before he went on to coach Japan and is now back at home to turn things around for Otago. Their attack has been somewhat hesitant at times that consigned them to losses, especially when playing against the Australian teams but most of home games they’ve played though ain’t bad. Watch this space as this is the team they wanted to reclaim its former glory having last won the Super Rugby title under the six-team Playoffs format before its complicated expansion between 2016-2024, which is expected to be revived as a 11-team competition next season.

Club Rugby

And last but not least, while the respective Shute Shield and Hospital Cup competitions are ongoing since the start of April, it’s great to see both Club Rugby competitions return to free-to-air a bit relatively early this weekend via 9Gem for another year in 2024 starting with the last five regular rounds followed three weeks of Finals. That gives you a huge Saturday viewing line-up of Rugby there with Club Rugby in the afternoon before finishing off the rest of your evening with some of the Wallabies action when playing at home including the 2nd Test v Wales in Melbourne. Although it remains to be seen whether if next weekend’s Shute Shield free-to-air viewing would bump into Sunday or be pitted at the same time as the one-off Wallabies match v Georgia that is going to be aired on the main channel at Allianz Stadium in Moore Park. The same thing should apply with the Hospital Cup for those tuning in from Queensland. The Shute Shield commentary team will look a bit different when Will Davies will be out for a while to commentate Field Hockey at the Olympics soon for Nine with former Hockeyroo Georgie Parker, but he should be back after this to call the Shute Shield Finals like he did last year – having also called a series of Super W games more often, as well as some Wallaroos Tests and the odd Super Rugby match (Force v Fijian Drua) so far this year.

UPDATE: Next round’s Shute Shield game for Round 15 is scheduled on a rare Sunday afternoon next weekend at 3pm between reigning champions Randwick v Warringah, so this should be on 9Gem while Nine will showcase Wallabies and Georgia to fill up the primary 3pm Saturday afternoon slot on the main channel. For Queensland viewers though, not so much where you would need both a TV and a portable device or a computer to watch both rugby games at the same time.

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While we are transitioning into International mode and also at Club Rugby too going into the 2nd half of 2024 next month, let’s look back at the 2024 Super Rugby Season following the Blues A+ Grand Final performance that sealed their long-awaited drought for their 4th championship trophy for the first time since 2003 over the Chiefs at Eden Park last night.

It began with the Crusaders largely not being the same team anymore that won them multiple championships despite their late season resurgence where they were one place short of the Top 8 while the Melbourne Rebels had a rare spectacular run on the field in 8th before their poor financial health regardless of this however unfortunately ended the team’s 14 year existence. Plus, NSW Waratahs were at an all-time low once again other than the two wins v Crusaders off the back of numerous injuries in the treatment room, particularly with their front rowers. Queensland Reds also had some fresh breath of under new coach Les Kiss including the Highlanders with their big rebuilding phase over in Otago but then they were both nowhere near past the Quarter-Finals alongside the Fijian Drua off the back of another excellent home season in 7th. Time will tell if the Drua will continue to progress & go Top 6 under a new coach while looking to improve their away form next season.

The same goes with the ACT Brumbies who continues to fall short in the semis yet again as they still continue to hold the title as Australia’s No.1 Super Rugby team, although we did witness a surprise semi elimination in the top-ranked Hurricanes by the Chiefs before the Waikato-based franchise weren’t simply up to the task against the championship-winning Blues last night. Nothing much also happened to Moana Pasifika and the Western Force when they had some wins off the back of a huge off-season drive but both are still underwhelming for the majority. It remains to be seen if the Force will benefit from the Rebels demise in an 11-team competition (short term) next year that would hopefully improve Australia’s record in Super Rugby as well as Wallabies at International level, so they can look to win games again. If not, while we understand of having a national footprint when the world has changed nowadays – three teams may finally be the way to go again with Rugby Australia helping the Force out elsewhere like reviving Global Rapid Rugby & have them play against teams in South East Asia.

And finally, congratulations to the Blues on their fourth championship when they first won this competition back-to-back while Super Rugby was born under Super 12 back in 1996 followed by a 3rd one in 2003 before they finally broken the 21-year hoodoo last night on top of the short-lived Trans-Tasman crown over the Highlanders during COVID back in 2021. They too have been unstoppable who can unseat any team including the top regular-season ranked Hurricanes while setting the standard all along including the Grand Final v Chiefs, even without Beauden Barrett at least in the short term until next year due to him playing in Japan. But it’s all about having an excellent group of players who is still around day in, day out alongside an experienced head coach of Vern Cotter after lifting his first major silverware off the back of long stints in France & Scotland.

So there you go for 2024 as Season 2025 would see 16 regular season matches and two weekly byes alongside a Top 6 Finals system like it was back in 2011-15 with the Top 2 going straight into the semis with 3rd-6th placed teams to play in the first week Quarter-Finals, then the other winning two will face the best two in the Final Four before the best of the best two teams will battle it out in the hope of lifting that championship next time around in 12 months’ time. After that, depending on the four Australian teams performance, Super Rugby would ideally like to say 12 teams but would otherwise have to go with 10.

The South African teams are well and truly happy in Europe following their split back in late 2020 while Japan wants to stay on its own with the Top League, a Jaguares reunion from Argentina may still pose financial and logistical issues & having Canada and USA onboard including a Hawaii-based team is still far off competitively right now for at least the next 10 years.

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The first of the two 2024 Super Rugby semi-finals was already underway at Eden Park in Auckland with the Blues v ACT Brumbies as the home side fired off really well with a couple of early tries that gave them a comfortable position to stay ahead. Meanwhile, Brumbies made good use of these early three-point penalty goals before they finally got one over the TRY line not long before half-time. Although they walked away with a huge trail behind the Blues by 14 points at half-time, 27-13.

Brumbies when they finally got themselves going have dominated possession that made the Blues sweating in their own area at one point. However, a series of failed executions alongside continuous handling errors and ill-discipline despite the winning penalties forced the Blues hand. That’s where the Blues extended their lead before their finals spot was confirmed as they are back in business hoping they will win that championship after falling short to the Crusaders at home two years ago.

The Final score at was Blues 34-20 Brumbies as we look ahead to the second semi-final tomorrow afternoon to decide who will be facing the Blues in the Grand Final at Sky Stadium in Wellington where the No.1 ranked Hurricanes side take on the Chiefs. If Hurricanes win then they will be hosting it at home whereas the Chiefs win would mean the Blues take over instead.

AJ Lam loves to make good use of the ball every time he’s got it with blistering pace and creativity when looking for some support to beat the opposition (ACT Brumbies) areas for the Blues at second five-eighth (No.12 shirt). He’s happy to get away with an excellent start such as that opening TRY on the wide right (he can also play on the wing too) to open the Blues account. He also has the energy to smash his way past their blocks and can nail them down like a hammer in defense that reflects his good progress in 2024. You also got a long-time Blues stalwart in right winger Mark Telea who also put up such a top notch effort in front of his supporters at Eden Park. He’s an excellent communicator with such a towering build as being tested in defense and attack while Mark has the licence to thrill through the channels that made the opposition look off-guard. Yes, he might not have scored any tries tonight but he’s there to help the Blues win games – and that is exactly he wants to do in order to walk away with the No.1 Super Rugby trophy for next Saturday’s Final v Hurricanes or Chiefs.

And Blindside Flanker Rob Valetini did the best he can to put the Brumbies on the map following another semi-finals shortcoming away from home. He’s so destructive physically with the ball on hand that handed his side winning penalties to accrue these points on the board as well as making the most out of these attacking opportunities thanks to the winning advantage and possession that includes two of the team’s tries off his own forwards department. Unfortunately, they just didn’t make the most out of their executions and advantages such as the handling errors that went the Blues way yet again towards the end. Let’s hope a tweaked talent pool next year would help the Brumbies finally crack that code for the Final.

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It’s been a huge week of Rugby Union here this week where the last four teams still in contention have been prepping hard ahead of the weekend’s semi finals action starting tomorrow while a few players have been out and about when it comes to relocating to another club ahead of next season with one taking up a code switch rather than looking to stay within here at a different Super Rugby club or go overseas and a surprise guest came up last night in the Aussie Olympic Swimming Trials.

Super Rugby Semi-Finals preview starting tomorrow

The 2024 Super Rugby semi-finals will kick off tomorrow night with the first semi-final game between the Blues and ACT Brumbies at Eden Park in Auckland before semi-final 2 stops there during the Saturday afternoon when the No.1 ranked Hurricanes host the Chiefs at Sky Stadium in Wellington. Will we see a Brumbies breakthrough at last or else The Blues stand strong and tough on home fortress? On the other hand, can the Chiefs make the main event for the 2nd straight year by upsetting the leaders or will the Hurricanes step one ahead in their unreal campaign going into next Saturday’s Grand Final?

This is all to play for when the Crusaders is out of the running at least in the short-term this season, it could open up a really good opportunity for the Brumbies to make a statement on behalf of the sport in Australia whose performance gauge has been underwhelming for a very long time while the team itself has always been regular semi-finalists over the last few years. It’s going to be difficult unfortunately to say unless they go & surprise all of us as the Blues will look to shut them out at home yet again by 15 points like they did earlier this year 46-7 during Round 8 and two years ago with the previous meeting semi-final. For those watching every Saturday on 9Gem, tune in tomorrow from 4.30pm so you don’t miss out ahead of kick-off.

Meanwhile, Hurricanes look set to be real favourites to win that semi-final since their 2024 season has been mostly outstanding despite the injury of half-back Cam Roigard. They’ve got a really good group of players including their bench that puts them way ahead on the Super Rugby map. But don’t forget the Chiefs is not out of the running just yet despite their inconsistencies combined with back-to-back losses v Hurricanes and Blues in the last few rounds of the season. especially when playing away from home after their Quarter-Final win v Queensland Reds last Friday. They are a team that has made massive progress though and the Chiefs would wanna go out on a bang in the hope of making the Final for another year, although don’t get your hopes up as they just need to take things one a time while DMac smiles his way through the sticks.

Life without the Melbourne Rebels with a few players looking to be on the move as one just made the switch to Rugby League

A week on from the Melbourne Rebels’s sad exit out following its one and only Finals loss in the last eight v Hurricanes, there is one player who has just made the move to Rugby League ahead of next season in young No.10 Carter Gordon at the Gold Coast Titans. He will be sorely missed having gone through the ranks at the Queensland Reds on hometown turf before Carter made a name for himself by moving to Melbourne by making the starting 10 role himself for the Rebels before he gained some experience in the Wallabies shirt despite its worse ever campaign at the World Cup in France last year. But again, he’s got so much potential on the best he can ever be following his development with the Rebels and not seeing him end up back at the Reds or go to the Waratahs is such a painful blow to Rugby here. Surely, he will be a hit in the NRL initially on a two-year contract depending on whether he likes to be around for a long time or not. If he just wants to be here for the two years, then happy to welcome him back at anytime ahead of the home 2027 Rugby World Cup as we wish him all the best.

Other than Carter to NRL, it’s too early to see which players will be ending up within Australia as most of them will expected to stay at any of the four Australian Super Rugby teams on top of Andrew Kellaway, who will be returning home at the Waratahs soon enough, while a few have already committed their next playing time offshore. Time will tell whether or not if they will be able to make some progress that would hopefully translate into Wallabies much-needed resurgence as a four-team group next season. If they are not able to deliver this despite a wee bit of quality of players in Rugby Australia’s main talent pool, then they need to do something about it sooner rather than later with the next TV rights deal set to commit from 2026-2030.

While Brumbies won’t ever face the cut since they’ve been always strong on the field despite some financial and crowd filling difficulties with the Waratahs and Reds being foundation teams that belongs in strong/traditional Rugby markets here that goes back to the 1800s, it’s up for the Western Force to finally deliver on the field or else they’d be best either merging with the Sunwolves/Moana Pasifika, expand into PNG or play Global Rapid Rugby in Asia again. Yes, the world has changed these days with 4-5 teams but sometimes things just wasn’t the same when the Wallabies were so good with three teams back then.

Drew Mitchell back on Nine after all in a while ahead of the upcoming Summer Olympics after he took part in the Celebrity Swimming event last night

While the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials is ongoing midway through the week at Brisbane Aquatic Centre, we saw one Rugby person poolside, who is an ex-Wallaby winger and also used to be on Nine and Stan’s Rugby Union coverage from the beginning until he was let go at the end of last year, in none other than Drew Mitchell. He was part of the celebrity swimming race last night where he swam 1 x 50m stint for Team Payne alongside Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne and Olympic Gold Medalist Duncan Armstrong before he confirmed to Roz Kelly after the race that he will be part of Nine’s Olympic commentary line-up for Rugby Sevens alongside Sera Naiqama. Yes, it’s a bit unusual seeing him only on the one channel and not all on the one Nine platforms like Stan Sport but that’s a separate contract when not many of them will be available for the Olympics as most of the ex-players they’ve got usually have more experience than at Sevens level. You can also think Morgan Turinui can easily be part of that group for Nine but will still be on Stan’s group as their resident Rugby 7s expert.

As we all know, he’s the guy that likes to be around when it comes to having fun and giving his insights that goes back from his playing days, having first worked for Fox Sports not long after he retired before he was made redundant after the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Although he was given a lifeline when Nine/Stan took over the rights at the start of 2021, he only did studio analysis/sideline reporting for the most part while doing relief game commentary since they prefer Morgan Turinui up there alongside Tim Horan and caller Sean Maloney. Then he barely featured only on Nine during last year’s World Cup particularly on Sports Sunday and maybe on the sports news reports before he was dropped not long after the tournament was over and Drew had no choice but to fight for his media employment in court, which unfortunately didn’t change the outcome.

He has since moved on by appearing in the Kick Off and Kick Ons podcast on a regular basis including at all home Wallabies games later this year alongside ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau, Adam-Ashley Cooper & Host James Rochford. For now, it was great seeing him on Nine again with a bit more to come at the Olympics before Drew is happy to hang around at KOKO every week.

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The 4th and last Quarter-Final Super Rugby match of 2024 stops at GIO Stadium in Canberra as the 3rd placed ACT Brumbies welcome back the 6th placed Highlanders from Dunedin after being forced to sit outside the Top 8 last year for the first time since 2022. The first half was tight with the Highlanders benefiting the winning penalties such as two penalty conversions plus the one TRY but it was the Brumbies that controlled the pitch where they went into the break with a one-point buffer, 17-16.

In the end though, it’s all about the Brumbies who continued to extend their lead with another two tries – despite seeing another physical battle with Highlanders unable to get over the line even with the ball on hand before time ticks away against them towards full-time. The final score was Brumbies 32-16 Highlanders as the home fans will now book their flights by following their team with pride and optimism to Eden Park in Auckland v the Blues that will take place on Friday night this time around at 5pm during the early evening here. If you’re used to watching on 9Gem during Saturday nights, make sure you tune in 24 hours earlier for this special one in case you miss out. Before this game, Blues wrapped things up very easily at home turf 36-5 when they continued to shine their all-round attack while the Fijian Drua walked away with just the one TRY. 

One of the best Brumbies players on song off the wide right is Andy Muirhead following his outstanding Quarter-Finals performance v the Highlanders. What would life be like had he played for the Wallabies? Surprised it still hasn’t happened despite being 30 (hoping Joe Schmidt will consider him) where he unpacked so many tricks out of the bag thanks to the dominant possession. All he wanted is for the ball to come to him and that came at the right time when the Brumbies needed to go out wide and he’s your man to wrap things up like a gift present – just unbelievable as always. If one isn’t enough, Charlie Cale is the next best thing on the Brumbies 8 back row at age 23 – who not only was good defensively but also really impressive with his physical grit – that helped crack the walls past the Highlanders. He’s excellent at scrummage and maul time including at the ruck to dig it in while being an excellent support player with his mobility where tries were made possible for the Brumbies. He left the pitch after 50 odd mins in a very good position off the back of a good restart straight after half-time.

Now it’s up for the Brumbies to go one better for the Grand Final by going up against 2nd-placed Blues in Eden Park on Friday night. They’ve fallen short including the last semis encounter there when Super Rugby came back to normal two years ago as winning the trophy would mean anything & everything to both the Canberra-based team, the Wallabies & Rugby Australia.

And Highlanders No.10 Cam Millar was really good off his kicking tee in all areas that gave his team an early headstart thanks to the winning penalties & early Brumbies handling errors. Gotta credit the scrambled defense & the scrummaging where the Highlanders were able to pick up some positives against the No.1 Australian Super Rugby team like that restart later during the 1st half, having closed it out so quickly off the left by Jona Nareki. But their Finals comeback after finishing 6th has unfortunately came to an end after they were just unable to grasp their attack for the most part, especially with low possession while couldn’t get the job done from one point down in the last 40. There is still a long way to go which is a far cry when they used to be oh so good like a decade go but the Highlanders are getting there & hopefully be Top 4 by 2025-2026.

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After 15 weeks of regular season action, let the three-week Playoffs begin as we are edging closer to close out the 2024 Super Rugby Season before the International season begins next month off the back of a three-game series (Wallabies v Wales and All Blacks v England) as well as bit of Club Rugby in between (NSW Shute Shield and QLD Hospital Cup as well as New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship) followed by The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup throughout August and September. Here’s what you need to know which of the Top 8 have made it and which four have been left out of the cold.

The four teams that were eliminated outside the Top 8 bubble are the NSW Waratahs following so many injuries (mainly the front row department) combined with very poor form other than winning both games v the Crusaders as if 2014 comes around again (12th), Moana Pasifika even though they made some progress by winning a few games but they’re still not yet competitive as they would’ve liked during their third season (11th), Western Force when they had a poor start off the back of a huge off-season drive but some rare wins here and there only at home as the campaign goes on wasn’t enough to justify their slim Finals hopes (10th) & lastly, the Crusaders with so many key men moved on including the seasoned winning head coach combined with a few injuries whose recent winning form & some unlucky losses just wasn’t enough to make it on time (9th).

We will begin with the 4th & 5th placed team tonight at around 5pm AEST between the Chiefs and Queensland Reds once again at FMG Stadium in Waikato. Can we see the Reds go one better or will the Chiefs continue its strong NZ teams run going into the second week semis next weekend? Then we have all three games throughout Saturday from early afternoon to night to round off the first week’s play. We will pick it up from there between the 1st and 8th placed match of the Hurricanes and the Melbourne Rebels. Rebels had a great on-field season thanks to a brilliant front row while their backline has been sublime but their constant off-field troubles financially saw the writing off the wall to the Melbourne-based team after 14 years. Yes, making the finals for the first time is a great way to end things on a high but then it’s like an extra round of rugby as the favourites remain to the Canes with a new Super Rugby champion being crowned soon now that the Crusaders is out.

Saturday night in New Zealand sees the Fijian Drua play in their 2nd straight Playoffs year after finishing 7th again in their third season of existence. They will be up against another difficult team likewise in the Blues who will be hosting them at Eden Park in Auckland. Can the Drua finally live up to its full potential when they haven’t been great away from home or will the Blues continue its championship hunt going into the semis yet again & win a trophy that the fans have long been waiting for (2021 Trans-Tasman trophy doesn’t count) since the start of the 2020s? And finally we finish off the big Saturday at GIO Stadium in Canberra between the ACT Brumbies and the returning Highlanders who is now back in the Top 8 after they fell short in 9th last year. Well, the Highlanders had their moments this season as whether or not if they can continue their resurgence by causing a storm to the best Australian Super Rugby team? If not, will see the Brumbies make the semis once more and hopefully they go one better to hopefully be the next Australian Super Rugby winner after the Tahs 10 years ago.

And with Super Rugby moving on with a 11-team competition next year (for now) with two weeks of byes and an extra regular season round, this is widely expected to be the last year we will see an eight-team Finals format since its big and then reduced expansion back in 2016. The quarter-finals may stay on but it will be slightly different by going with a six-team Finals route as it once was before between 2011-2015 where the Top 2 teams will get the first week off with two matches instead of four – 4th v 5th (winner meets 1st) and 3rd v 6th (winner meets 2nd). It’s still a long way away from its absolute best even with South Africa now already moved on and thriving across Europe as we will go with four Australian teams from five while it remains to see if Moana Pasifika and even the Western Force can lift themselves up from the bottom at least over the next year or two.

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The last four weeks of the 2024 Super Rugby season saw some great success with the New Zealand teams still going strong minus the Crusaders still unluckily, while the Australian sides have proven that they are up to the challenge that would make a huge difference to their upcoming Wallabies campaign later this year with three more regular rounds to go.

Then it’s all about Finals Footy once again to round off the season campaign after this from the quarter-final followed by the semi-finals and the Grand Final.

New Zealand teams

The Blues recently became unstoppable having just surpassed the Hurricanes on top of the ladder yesterday as they just got the Highlanders, Crusaders & Chiefs to go, which shouldn’t be too hard to go into the Finals with plenty of optimism for a fourth title. Hurricanes as said haven’t done too bad at times without Cameron Roigard but still had some tough times against Blues yesterday & the Brumbies two weeks ago in Canberra, let’s see if they can hold keep on winning where Moana Pasifika should be easy while Chiefs & Highlanders is a bit difficult.

Chiefs also had some easy wins in recent weeks against the bottom 3-4 teams & the race is on for the Waikato side to hopefully get the job done that might be a bit challenging starting with the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday followed by the Top 2 teams (Hurricanes & Blues). Meanwhile, Highlanders recovered well from their worst trip v Reds (31-0) in Round 9 by putting themselves back in the Top 8 at 7th with some good wins even though it wasn’t pretty. Yes, things are going to get difficult when facing the Top 2 sides other than Fijian Drua in Round 14 but sure they can cause a storm like it was before. 

And last but not least the Crusaders who got themselves another win in Christchurch two weeks ago v Rebels 38-0 with some great improvements to see at times. However, time is running against them as they really need to win big, which won’t be easy against Brumbies & then Blues other than easy finish v Moana Pasifika to hopefully make the Top 8 just in time after Round 15.

Australian teams 

ACT Brumbies are still high and flying bar the Blues loss back in Round 9 as they still sit 3rd with an easy run-in that would hopefully give themselves a good Finals run and then end the drought to take home the trophy. Queensland Reds on the other hand returned to winning ways other than also a close Round 10 loss v the Blues. Now the run-in might look a bit difficult when the Drua is so strong on the home front while they got a few being injured but then you got the Western Force at home followed by the Waratahs again shouldn’t be too hard to seal a good run-in v Chiefs or Brumbies in the Quarters.

Western Force also has a great strong home atmosphere off the back of wins against the Crusaders back in Round 9 & the Fijian Drua last night, which puts them back on track towards an outside possibility of playing Finals footy with the Waratahs next up followed by Reds away & then the Brumbies after that. Then don’t know what to say about the NSW Waratahs when they are at their lowest ebb once again with so many being injured other than two lucky wins v the Crusaders with more losses going against them. The only positive I can say that they’ve put in their best effort to hopefully get themselves up first at the finish line, but then they’re last right now with two difficult games to finish it off (Force & Reds) other than Moana Pasifika.

And the Melbourne Rebels are still hanging in 6th with three tough games to go with two being at home, such as the Chiefs on Friday followed by the Brumbies and then the Drua away in Fiji. It all depends on the other results but they will still make it even it means an extra week of playing considering the Crusaders are still struggling with the Waratahs going way worse. Then the big question mark is whether or not if the Rebels will be back next year & beyond who is still broke despite recent on-field success? We still don’t know when you got a businessman-led consortium group ready to save the club from liquidation but then the powers of Rugby Australia has the final say at Rugby HQ with still no resolution to either stay or go at this stage.

Pasifika teams 

Well, Moana Pasifika had their moments earlier during the season where they were flirting with the Top 8 bubble a few times here & there. However, a recent string of losses meaning they will unfortunately miss out as progress will take a bit more time before Moana can start winning more games from here; They got the 2nd-placed Hurricanes next up followed by the Waratahs & Crusaders, even though all of their final three regular season games are going to be played within New Zealand.

Same goes with the Fijian Drua who always have an outstanding home atmosphere in Lauktoka, Fiji like the Force bar the Hurricanes loss back in Round 9. They might be able to play another week of Finals this year depending on other results with the next two games being at home against the Reds & Rebels other than the Highlanders in Dunedin but their away form still much leaves to be desired which is gonna bite back to haunt them including the 48-10 loss v Force last night in Perth. That is going to be their next big step alongside a new head coach with Mick Byrne agreeing to step up with the national team soon.


2/3rd in with three regular weeks to go as the race for 6th-8th is still on where we could still see an odd upset or two on top of the continued Australian teams’ winning progress & the battle for 1st & 2nd between the Blues and Hurricanes, with the lone Australian side Brumbies and the Chiefs being the outside favourites as they’re all locked up with the QF hosting rights.

While the Reds will surely end up in 5th, The Rebels and Highlanders would most certainly be a given as the Waratahs are unable to improve anytime soon with more injury hit-lists in the treatment room. And who is going to claim 8th?

It’s going to be between the Drua, Force and Crusaders – with the Crusaders hopefully getting the last remaining Finals spot, even though things weren’t the best where lots of new guys have a huge job to fill after so many people including a few big-name players and even the head coach in Scott Robertson getting the All Blacks job have came and gone in the off-season.

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Last night, Melbourne has witnessed their own Rugby team winning another game this time v Highlanders in the form of the Rebels and they now sit in 4th place on the ladder with a bye next week before they resume to go all in & hopefully have their first taste of Finals footy. Although they did play in the Qualifying Final back in 2020 v QLD Reds under a temporary Super Rugby AU comp when COVID interrupted our daily lives at the time & the Waratahs weren’t doing much good back then.

However, questions will still need to be answered by Rugby Australia amid the Rebels still being broke as whether or not if they have the resources including the talent pool to support as many as five teams? It’s been a long-running debate that saw two teams end up in the hole including the ACT Brumbies whose existence will not be taken away anytime soon thanks to their decorated history regularly up front that reflects long-running success. There’s another team that won’t be in for the axe at all is the NSW Waratahs whose history is also so strong in a Rugby dominated state/market that goes back to hundreds of years despite their mediocrity over the last couple of years; Same goes to the Queensland Reds – so rule both of them out too as removing those big influences & RA investing more into the Brumbies, Rebels & even Western Force won’t help that much.

While we’d like to go back to the way things were when the Wallabies were oh so good with just three teams in the 1990s and early 2000s, it won’t happen since the world has changed over time with most professional sports here having an excellent national footprint. At the end of the day, it’s still going to be five teams without needing to axe a team again under a few conditions – if the Rebels get cut, 1. I’d to see a like-for-like replacement with the Jaguares coming back this time as a Melbourne-based team by inheriting most of the Rebels players with a few Los Pumas Internationals coming over and 2. Western Force gets some help from Japan and merge with the Sunwolves while still playing most of the games in Perth.

That way, we will able to meet the goal of having all five Australian Super Rugby teams thriving against the long-dominating New Zealand counterparts. Plus, the talent pool will be stronger as ever which in turn will get more quality Australian Super Rugby players coming from all five teams for the benefit of the Wallabies returning to its former glory by winning games & silverware again while expanding overseas selection availability since the Springboks won back-to-back recent World Cups under this model including the next crop of local grassroots kids who will learn massively from the seasoned Internationals playing here.

And hopefully no more fighting after consistently losing to the All Blacks over the last 20 + Bledisloe Cup editions while experiencing the worst World Cup campaign ever where they exited the group stages for the first time last year in France as the worst thing can happen is for RA to face someone in the courtroom yet again like the Force back in 2017, The end.

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Round 8 is now done and we are at the halfway stage of the 2024 Super Rugby Season with one more shortened series of four games next weekend while some teams will undertake the required week-long off the field and all 12 teams will then look to bring it home non-stop towards the end of this regular home and away portion. For now, let’s look back what happened over the past month between Rounds 5 to 8 when we finished March while having an Easter long weekend before entering April and the clocks have moved back an hour with all cold game nights ahead after Daylight Savings was over one week ago.

New Zealand teams

Hurricanes still strong albeit Cam Roigard’s knee injury that will keep him out of the field for six months as let’s see if that unbeaten run continues with games coming up v Fijian Drua as well as two Aussie teams like Brumbies & Waratahs. What else? Blues also on the same wavelength as the Hurricanes where they got the Brumbies next up followed by the Reds and Rebels, so won’t be easy when facing Aussie opposition but they should be alright though with 1-2 wins mainly v Reds and Rebels. Chiefs also not bad despite some losses lately v Crusaders in Christchurch a few weeks ago as well as the unbeatable Hurricanes just now & they have a good next series of matches which we will expect to see them again at Finals time. Then Highlanders have shown that they can always stay in the game but four losses over the last month isn’t a good look whose progress is still in the rebuilding phase which will take a bit more time. And on the Crusaders, great to see them win at last two weeks ago v Chiefs. Although they were unlucky v Waratahs again the other day thanks to Will Harrison’s last-minute drop goal, but they are on the right track though lately as they still need to win the rest if the Saders want to play Finals this year.

Australian teams

ACT Brumbies are still unstoppable who currently sits 2nd with games coming up v the Top 2 such as Blues next Saturday and the Hurricanes after that. Can they be the top ranked side in this comp other than being just the best here that saw them accomplish regular semi-finals over the last couple of years? We’ll see. Melbourne Rebels, on the other hand, got away with really good wins off the back of the Waratahs as that team so far can only win v the new-look Crusaders, as well as Fijian Drua who still struggle away from home and of course, the Highlanders by a comfortable margin. They now sit 4th amid financial problems at the start of this year as nothing is still guaranteed whether if they will be back playing next season & beyond.

Plus, the Queensland Reds good start under Les Kiss has turned sour in recent weeks after three straight losses to the Western Force, ACT Brumbies and now Moana Pasifika. The good news is they are still within the Top 8 bubble in 6th but bad news is they need to win games again if Queensland wish to do well in the Finals and not let it slip out with fear like last year when Brad Thorn had his course as head coach. Meanwhile, the NSW Waratahs are still struggling other than winning games v the Crusaders and they too have a series of tough matches ahead after next week’s bye like Chiefs, Hurricanes and also the Brumbies again. And while the Western Force was fortunate to celebrate the rare home win v Reds, they still haven’t been at their best despite having lots of experienced players. Looking ahead, the run-in fixtures doesn’t look any good to them as an outside finals berth looks less likely but surely they will get some wins at home though like Crusaders, Drua and Waratahs.

Pasifika teams

We all know that the Drua like the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels can have a strong home crowd impact which reflects their impressive winning record there but not so much away from home. They got the Hurricanes and Moana Pasifika coming up at home soon to close out April, so this could mean business for them to get back on track to stay inside the Top 8 bubble and hopefully play Finals again like they did during their sophomore campaign last year. And what about Moana Pasifika? They made some excellent progress at last as seen in the early rounds of 2024, although they had some heavy losses recently until Moana beat the Reds the other day but that was against the top teams. They will need at least 3-4 wins now in order to enjoy their first finals experience as long as the ladder doesn’t change that much over the next 4-6 weeks, but again Moana is making some gradual progress on their third year before they can be more like Drua and win more games in the long run.


All in all, the New Zealand teams are still dominating Super Rugby as the Crusaders downfall should only last this season while Australia has made some great progress too – including a couple of upset wins against some of the established or original foundation teams should I say – with the Brumbies and Rebels being their best so far in 2024. Nothing much will change as wouldn’t mind a couple of more upsets and other team wins that isn’t a New Zealand team or from somewhere in the bottom four, but the only exception we might see is for the Crusaders to win all the remaining games as they can & make the Finals just inside the Top 8 by the time we wrap up Round 12 before all 12 teams will then become eight teams after Round 15.

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Week 7 of the 2024 Super Rugby Season wrapped up with the ACT-NSW rivalry between the Brumbies and Waratahs at GIO Stadium in Canberra where it was a quiet and defensive focused first-half with the Brumbies holding a 10-point lead after a series of penalty goals by the two teams but No.9 Harrison Goddard has got Canberrans on the board right at half-time with his first TRY of the night, 16-6. Then the Brumbies went on to build on their good first-half with an excellent 2nd-half performance of a few tries on the board that sums up their 5th straight win of 2024 while the Waratahs might have secured the one and only TRY but struggled mightily despite their good defensive structure earlier on as the full-time score was 40-16.

It’s a hard pick with so many Brumbies players performing at their best tonight v Waratahs but how good was Corey Toole who was so electrifying that made the most of his team’s unbelievable 2nd half counter-attacking performance on the left wing at No.11. It’s not just his explosive finishing and slick passes that puts Toole on the front foot but he can also cover everything in between including defense as he deseves the step up into Wallabies level soon enough. Then shoutout to James Slipper who plays on the front row at loosehead for the Brumbies after he just became the most capped Australian Super Rugby player of 178 caps & he too had a great game to keep a great eye of the Waratahs earlier on while giving his team winning penalties and big scores to help the Brumbies stay ahead. He’s so important on and off the field with a plethora of experience alongside a high standard of physical and mental toughness required both at Super Rugby and Wallabies level as credit to him on turning the Brumbies into a regular finals contender since he came over from the Reds back in 2019. Now look out Blues and Hurricanes, they are gunning for the top spot now & hopefully the Super Rugby trophy later in June. But first, they got the week-long off for next week before the Brumbies head to Auckland v Blues on a Saturday night for Week 9.

And Charlie Gamble did the best he can to hold the Waratahs glue together on the openside back row at No.7 with excellent defensive contribution to turn the game over including some attacking intent which reaped rewards along the way, especially when going up against an outstanding Brumbies team who controlled really well with possession. It’s just a shame that his team’s attack wasn’t on par with the Brumbies backline in the 2nd half when it comes to the lead, having built some defensive stability throughout the opening 40. Once again, the Waratahs still haven’t won in a while that goes back to Round 2 last month v Crusaders whom they will be facing up next this time at home (Allianz Stadium in Moore Park) on Friday night.

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