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NSW Waratahs

Great to have Super Rugby back for another year in 2024, especially on a Saturday night that began with the long-running Queensland Reds v NSW Waratahs rivalry as this week’s game of the round at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. It was a close first half where the Waratahs showed some intent in the way they spotted a few Reds mistakes before they cashed in with the rewards on hand, while the home side benefitted from winning penalties every time when they have the ball in hand going forward & they are the ones who has the upper hand at the break, 21-15. But the 2nd half is all about the Reds where they continued to keep on scoring before being too good in the end as the new era under head coach Les Kiss is off to a great start with a comfortable victory on home soil, 40-22. Next weekend’s games will be under the one roof during the Super Round at AAMI Park in Melbourne with Crusaders v Waratahs on next Saturday night & Hurricanes v Reds next Sunday afternoon. Time will tell if the Australian teams really mean business this season since the NZ teams have entered into a completely new chapter with lots of musical chairs amongst coaches and even players over the course of the off-season.

Tate McDermott has been a revelation in the Reds attack at No.9 (half-back) whose performance tonight has played a key role in his team’s huge win v the Waratahs. He’s great communicating with his players while unleashing the pace and physicality every time the Reds has the ball on hand. All of this is so important in getting the job done when making the most of the counter-attack as this is how Les Kiss wanted the Reds to play and gotta say it’s so far, so good with McDermott vowing to keep that rebuilding phase onto the next step in the weeks to come. There’s another Reds player who will be there to bring back the glory is experienced Alex Hodgman on the front row at loosehead. He too benefitted from winning penalties where he has the tall reach & packed meat combined to plow himself past the Waratahs players with scrums and tries being won under his watch. There’s life after Taniela Tupou in the props when you got someone onboard who has previous Super Rugby experience in New Zealand and he could even play for the Wallabies too soon enough thanks to his Australian-born father.

And Mark Nawaqanitawase had a really long evening on the wide right for the Waratahs where he has outstanding vision as being tested in defense while he can get his side out of trouble every time the opportunity is there whenever the ball is right near or with him. There’s a reason why he’s more than a Super Rugby player in the Wallabies shirt as Mark will be missed when he will play for the Sydney Roosters in 2025 & 2026. Even though he did his best to try and stop the Reds from scoring, his side unfortunately wasn’t happy with the discipline/lost penalties before more mistakes went against them at his own end later on & this is something the Waratahs will need to watch out if they wish to get themselves back on track this season.

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Things are going from bad to worse at the Melbourne Rebels who are operating by little by little now. First of all, they’ve entered voluntary administration 1-2 weeks ago while they were owed lots of money in debt. Now not only a few of their staff including the board were forced to leave but also they have just $17,300 left with just a few pieces of office furniture, gym equipment & two cars. Although they will be playing out this season since the fixtures have already been laid out for the over the next few months as there’s no way back, but still no guarantee the Rebels will return in 2025 which will be highly unlikely. 

It will be devastating to see Rugby leave Melbourne where they’ve been the host of the three-day annual Super Round weekend for a few years, which isn’t too far away now for Round 2 at the start of March. They also hosted the home Bledisloe Cup games when the Wallabies v All Blacks over the last two years (2022 at Marvel Stadium & 2023 at MCG) & will be hosting Wales during the 2nd mid-year tour match in mid-July at AAMI Park. Yes, they have also produced a few Wallabies players of their own over the last few years & not being able to play for a local professional team like the Rebels like underage level & then into Super Rugby before stepping up at International level would see them end up elsewhere. Regardless of what happens, there will always be some people wanting to play rugby from a young age in Melbourne & across Victoria.

But if you look at the on-field results however, they barely do anything good apart from the rare 9th placed finish back in 2018 when they benefited from Western Force’s axing from Super Rugby at the time. You might also tell that they do have a great line-up of players too from the off-season despite a huge mess off the field lately, but don’t think it will make much of a difference when all of the players’ contracts including the coaching staff under Kevin Foote will last through the end of June.

Look it’s so hard to tell having looked at options to see the Rebels live on such as merging with another team like the ACT Brumbies from Canberra and even Moana Pasifika. But no matter what you think whether or not if the merged squad would be even stronger, it’s unfortunately not a good idea when merging two teams would see plenty of uproar amongst fans in the Rugby community here. That means, you will be taking out the history they’ve built for such a long time like 27 years & it won’t be good to see that kind of value go, who fear the team they support will soon be gone under a different location & new team identity. It means a lot to them & that will be irreplaceable as Rugby Australia never wanted to do it anyway.

Now here’s what will happen if the Rebels meet their comeuppance, as said, it would be so sad to lose an Australian Super Rugby side as RA always wanted to keep all five teams in order to have a national footprint, which is understandable. 

But the results and lack of silverware including their worst ever World Cup last year is still weighing against them over the last 20 + years as the question is can they support five teams? The answer is no unfortunately because RA proved that they are unable to make room to support themselves financially for all five Super Rugby teams in order to have the best success as we will be down to four after this with the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies & Western Force. Yes, there were rumours about the Brumbies also entering the same way (voluntary administration) as the Rebels, who are also running tight on funds. But considering their strong on-field presence year-long round that includes making the Finals every year where they went all the way as the only Australian team here to the semi-finals meaning it will be too difficult to see them go.

Even so with four teams here that was done on more than a few occasions, they still haven’t translated much success into International level as the Wallabies used to enjoy dominating on the field with just three Super Rugby teams of Reds, Waratahs & Brumbies back then in the 1990s & early 2000s. So is abandoning the national footprint plan for a pro-rugby state strategy that would finally see the Wallabies return to winning ways just like Rugby League does mostly in NSW & QLD? This could finally be the answer with the Western Force from Perth either playing in Japan or relaunching their own comp in Global Rapid Rugby considering Andrew Forrest has lots of cash in the bank. They are a side that has been in and out off the comp for a long time since 2006 whose form weren’t bad during most home games last year but still yet never made the finals.

In the meantime, Rugby Australia has lots of issues to address where the silverware cabinet has been mostly empty other than the rare 2011 Tri Nations & 2015 Rugby Championship as time will tell soon enough with or without the Melbourne Rebels.

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We are about to enter the 28th year of Super Rugby & yet things are still not the same as it once was back in the glorious 1990s-early 2000s when Australia (Wallabies) benefited so much success right until the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Yes, they won just three Super Rugby championships ever since but that doesn’t mean they are on the same standard as their Tasman neighbours, New Zealand. There has been so many changes through the off-season with regards to musical chairs at players and coaching staff amongst multiple teams. Waratahs handed over control to Rugby Australia recently while the Reds got a new head coach. Plus, Brumbies staying strong as the leading Super Rugby team here, as well as Western Force who are looking to return to the finals with the recruitment of some experienced players. And this week, the Melbourne Rebels entered voluntary administration even though they will continue to play just for this season, despite some star hirings of their own.

Over in New Zealand, most of the five teams (Blues, Hurricanes & of course Crusaders) except Chiefs & Highlanders will now have new head coaches where most of them from last year have joined Scott Robertson at the All Blacks as the Crusaders will begin a brand new era in 2024 without him. He was the one who delivered so many Super Rugby championships including last year’s final v Chiefs & it remains to be seen if the Crusaders can keep on winning including delivering another championship under former Waratahs coach Rob Penney. And for the Highlanders, they are under a big rebuilding phase with Jamie Joseph back onboard to try & return to its former glory as the head of rugby after they missed the Top 8 finals bubble in 9th last year.

We also don’t forget the two Pasifika teams to round off the line-up with Fijian Drua coming off from a great second season before they were elminated by the Crusaders in the last 8 as winning away from home would be the great next step to stay in the Top 8 & Moana Pasifika needs more time so they can really win games after they finished last over the last two seasons.

This year could be a great opportunity to see an even/level playing field where it’s Australia’s time at last to catch up to NZ but despite there will be some really close games, the outcome won’t change much where we will see a New Zealand winner once again whether it’s going to be the Crusaders or Blues or Chiefs by surprise whereas the Brumbies will continue being the best Australian Super Rugby team. Likewise in previous seasons though, the Brumbies will unfortunately still be nowhere near the Grand Final radar either in the quarter or semi finals. Yes, Rugby Australia is going with the high performance centralisation system alongside Joe Schmidt as their new head coach in the hope of also winning games again following a disastrous group stage campaign for the first time ever at last year’s World Cup in France. But the question remains to be seen whether or not if they can support five teams, having seen the Rebels fall into trouble off the field this week? While there will always going to be some Victorian/Melbourne born talent, there’s no guarantee that the Rebels will continue to play at AAMI Park going into 2025 and beyond. For now, the new season will start on Friday 23rd February right until mid-June where every game is live and Ad-Free on Stan Sport while there’s always a Saturday night game being simulcast via free-to-air on 9Gem.

Predicting ladder 2024

  1. Crusaders (champions)
  2. Chiefs (then semi-finalists)
  3. Blues (runners-up)
  4. ACT Brumbies (then semi-finalists)
  5. Hurricanes
  6. NSW Waratahs
  7. Queensland Reds
  8. Highlanders
  9. Fijian Drua
  10. Western Force
  11. Melbourne Rebels
  12. Moana Pasifika
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Yes, first and foremost I agreed with Stephen Hoiles that our Super Rugby system here in Australia is broken. But I don’t agree that one team should be dropped out like it was 5-6 years ago when we didn’t win a lot with four Australian teams from 2006-2010 as well as 2018-2020 until COVID has changed things unexpectedly from there.

Instead, I think that dropping two teams would be for the best for Rugby Union in Australia where the Western Force & Melbourne Rebels can get International experience elsewhere, while we go back to the system that worked so well for us before with just the ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs & Queensland Reds. That way, you only need three top-quality teams in order to do well not just against our New Zealand counterparts, but it would also help our Wallabies get back to their best again where we can win silverwares regularly & be Top 3-4 instead of sitting around 9th-13th right now.

We also know & understand that Rugby Union here is an International sport. How come New Zealand has lots of Rugby teams where they got five in Super Rugby & the rest down to the Tier 2 National Provincial Championship comp? We should do the same with three Super Rugby teams & the rest elsewhere. But otherwise, there’s always the Top League over in Japan, who should bring both the Rebels & Force over from Super Rugby. It’s the kind of standard that suits them (Rebels & Force) perfectly when facing a bunch of other Japanese teams that includes the same day time zone as well. 

So all in all, we’d be all for it if Rugby Australia downsizes from five to three Super Rugby teams going forward. At the same time though, we want the Force & Rebels play in Japan and/or through a new National 2nd Tier comp as we have nothing against them. It’s just the fact that they’re both not Super Rugby standard and it’s been hurting us for a long time.

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It’s time to be very honest and upfront to the board at Rugby Australia that this isn’t working where we keep on losing matches time & time again without any regular silverware for a very long time. 

First of all, please go back to having just three Super Rugby teams – NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds & ACT Brumbies. It’s something that worked before in the past and they should look to either create a national 2nd tier comp involving both Western Force & Melbourne Rebels or send both teams to some Asia-Pacific comp or even the Top League in Japan where they can compliment each other very well at that kind of standard.

Have a look at South Africa when they had to cut back 2 Super Rugby teams & sending them over to Europe at the same time back in late 2017? It actually worked out well for them, having went on to win a World Cup a few years ago while being able to beat the All Blacks occasionally which is what we should exactly be doing. They’re even one of the four favourite teams to take home this year’s World Cup too & despite not having the Cheetahs onboard when playing against International opposition sometimes in an annual European rugby comp right now, things are currently on the up for them.

Now yes, not everything we suggest can be perfect as we all see Rugby as an International sport compared to Rugby League & Aussie Rules Football. But then with League, they don’t have a Perth & Adelaide team & yet it’s going so well for them being as the fastest game in the country & even on earth. You might also argue that the Melbourne Storm is one of the most successful teams out in League but that sport is also observed by all Aussies, not Rugby where Melbourians would rather pick up a Football and play AFL, VFL or League with the Storm than playing Rugby for the Rebels. 

So no room to have another footy code there sadly no matter how much effort they put in to have an annual Super Round as well as the home Bledisloe Cup test match v All Blacks. The same goes to Perth where they’re not a traditional Rugby state despite a whole heap of investments thanks to Andrew Forrest, but the results isn’t there to back it up compared to our traditional state teams as it’s best if the Force & Rebels play elsewhere – nothing against them. All we want is for Rugby Australia to realise their potential in Super Rugby that would in turn help them win games again v the top International teams as not only we’re frustrated but NZ Rugby as well when the ABs are beginning to slip away from the Top 3-4 thanks to us here.

Please do us a favour and go back to the way things were that made Australia once successful in all fronts before both in Super Rugby (you only need three teams to be really successful v NZ teams every weekend in order to win championships) & Wallabies (selection structure would help too) while maintaining the national footprint by having a National Tier 2 comp or send both Western Force & Melbourne Rebels to another comp as well as investing more in grassroots elsewhere.

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It was great to look back such a fantastic Saturday afternoon of watching Club Rugby from the stands at North Sydney Oval. 

Love the close rivalry between Norths v Easts where we saw an amazing end to this year’s Shute Shield regular season competition with a game-winning drop goal not long before full-time.

We now turn our attention to the four-week Finals series starting on Saturday with the Qualifying Final; Norths v Manly, Sydney Uni v Randwick, Eastwood v Easts & Warringah v Gordon.

Match Report: https://rb.gy/hpubcu

Top 3 players Report Card: https://rb.gy/sn5dco

I’ll also leave you with a stunning view of Sydney that I’ve taken just before I entered the venue the other day.

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What a game to look back from last night when I had the chance to watch the Waratahs v Blues on-site at Leichhardt Oval. It was a quiet first-half by both teams where the Tahs made plenty of chances going forward but without any score, while the Blues were held back by a series of lost penalties & ill-discipline before they took a late three-point penalty goal ahead of half-time.

The 2nd half though was wild where the Tahs led the way courtesy of Mark Nawaquanitawase’s sensational double tries that almost shocked the reigning Super Rugby Trans-Tasman champions. But in the end, the Blues were the better team; Not only responded really well, but they never gave up until the very end where that sensational drop-goal from Zarn Sullivan was enough to secure them the win, 17-20.

Unlucky from the Waratahs with the narrow loss here last night at Leichhardt Oval. The Tahs got the breakthrough they needed with the renewed momentum after half-time where Mark Nawaquanitawase scored a double TRY from his own end on the right-wing. However, they just couldn’t get the best of executions despite plenty of chances being created in the first-half off the back of a good defensive structure & winning penalties. That one huge weakness, as well a small lead just wasn’t enough for the Tahs to fend off the Blues towards the homestretch.

And congratulations to the Blues who snatched the win at the last minute that sent the Tahs supporters a huge blow on their home turf. They were lucky to get away from a dangerous Tahs attack when Ill-discipline stalled their progress in the first-half, as the Blues lost Adrian Choat & Akira Ioane to the naughty chair for a while at one point. It almost came back to bite them when Mark Nawaquanitawase’s double TRY gave the Blues some alarm bells to turn around in a race against time. But a change of tactics including some fresh faces off the bench helped the Blues respond to this fight, before Zarn Sullivan’s increased kicking responsibilities was enough to leave Leichhardt Oval with the win via a three-point drop goal.

So the Tahs will now face the Chiefs from Waikato on early Saturday afternoon instead of the 3rd placed Brumbies in the Quarter-Final if it’s not for that heartbreaking defeat. Meanwhile, the Blues will find out tonight on who they will face their 8th placed opponent for Quarter-Final No.1 on Friday; Is it the Western Force if the Melbourne Rebels can answer their favour v Highlanders as long as their opponents don’t take the bonus point, or the Highlanders beat the Rebels that will leave the Force outside the Top 8 Playoffs bubble.

The final game of the regular Super Rugby Pacific between the Rebels v Highlanders will take place on 2pm this afternoon at AAMI Park in Melbourne, while I will continue my big sporting weekend today at Sydney Motorsports Park in Eastern Creek, NSW, for the ARG SpeedSeries.

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Luke Romano left Leichhardt Oval tonight with lots of hard work on his sleeve at No.4 (second row position) for the Blues. He still has so much physicality to unpack alongside his vast World Cup and All Black winning-experience at the age of 36 which is amazing. All he did tonight was protecting his team’s defensive line, as well as being a huge presence going forward so the Blues know where to score through the gate. And having talked a bit about leadership a bit earlier on, he’s good at talking them up especially when passing over his word to these youngsters. Not only it helped the Blues respond to the Tahs’ double try from Mark Nawaquanitawase in the 2nd 40, but he also inspired his side with the win they wanted at the last minute.

The next Blues player after Romano is Zarn Sullivan who wears the No.15 shirt at full-back. He’s gotta be the complete package here; he’s very mobile with the pace where he bursts his way through the channels, as well as being able to track back and tackle in defensive mode, and most importantly, his kicking accuracy. He also credits the Blues change of tactics in the last 40 with a couple of fresh faces off the bench, and him replacing Jock McKenzie as the leading kick taker, whether it’s via line outs or taking a shot towards the goalpost. That favoured kicking responsibilities was also another good reason why the Blues never stopped fighting with an extra edge of a few successful two-point conversions, until Sullivan secured his drop goal moment not long after the final hooter delivered his Blues team a game-winning result.

And we can’t get enough of Mark Nawaquantawase’s finishing on the wide right for the Waratahs. His back-to-back tries helped his side lead at one point with credit from the renewed momentum following the half-time break. However, he wishes that more of executions would’ve been done at the start, despite creating numerous chances that was gifted from these winning penalties. Unfortunately, it’s one huge weakness that puts so much pressure to stop the Blues defensively before it’s too late when Zarn Sullivan broke their hearts.

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Ardie Savea worked so hard tonight at Number 8 for the Hurricanes, especially during the 2nd half when his side came from 15-0 down at the break to a 18-22 win in the end. He made the most out of his game by smashing his way through the Waratahs defensive half where A. Savea is best served there with the Canes’ attacking contribution. That way, he helped the Canes find some space via the offload or talk-up before the job is done with a TRY assist to Bailyn Sullivan and also a TRY by himself. And it goes to show that Ardie loves to attack when the opposition began to falter; it gave the Canes a number of winning penalties, as well as more opportunities with the ball that reflects his match-winning performance.

Next up is another Canes spotlight player in Tevita Mafileo, who made a decent impact off the bench from the 34th minute, in place for Xavier Numia at loosehead prop. He has lots of physicality to unpack thanks to his impressive tall build, as well as the youth and talent by his side that helped Mafileo punish the Tahs. It’s important when it comes to his defensive contribution, especially in the 2nd half where the Tahs only secured a penalty goal on top of the opposition team’s red-hot 1st half spell. He can also be a great protector & communicator of the Canes attack going forward, where he made sure that his side were able to pick up valuable points which played a huge part of their comeback win tonight.

And Izaia Perese offers a lot of pace and physicality down in the outside centre role at the Tahs No.13 jersey. He credits his support runners who helped get the best out of him, such as the Charlie Gamble; having squared off 1 or 2 Canes defenders before Dylan Pietsch came to his rescue with the five-point score ahead of half-time. Unfortunately, not only the Tahs 2nd-half spell wasn’t the same over declined momentum and ill-discipline; he was also forced to leave the field early over a MCL injury where Perese will have to sit out for a few weeks. Without him, it just won’t be the same where he’s an very important player at the Tahs with some NRL experience.

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It was a brilliant Saturday Night match-up at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney between the NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes in Week 13 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific. The home team fired off well with an easy 15-0 lead while the Canes struggled to get the ball rolling. However, the Canes began to make up lost time before they completed their remarkable rebound with the win, as the final score is 18-22.

Unlucky from the Tahs after they fell short by four points on their home turf at Leichhardt Oval. The fire off was fantastic in the 1st half where they accrued up to 15 points ahead of half-time, with two tries from Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco & Dylan Pietsch. But they just couldn’t hold off the momentum going into the last 40, especially when they failed to hold back the Hurricanes resurgence at their own defensive territory. A number of lost penalties and ill-discipline also let them down, especially when Paddy Ryan made a huge tackle on Jordie Barrett’s jaw in the 75th minute and had to be sent off with a straight red card which was disappointing. Not only that, they will also have to cope without their star centre Izaia Perese for a while after he was forced off with a MCL tear at the same time. The Tahs’ next match for Round 14 will be against the Highlanders next Sunday at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Meanwhile, how good was the Hurricanes on their comeback trail from a scoreless first-half to a unbelievable win away from home? Now they will still need to deal with the slow starts where the Waratahs exposed them with 15 points being conceded in the opening 40. But the way they made up lost time later on & be able to close it off with a win is such fantastic rugby to watch. There’s credit to their forward pack, especially with the 7 & 8s partnership on the back row from Du’Plessis Kirifi and Ardie Savea. A number of fresh faces off the bench also helped their cause, including Tevita Mafileo at loosehead, where the Canes were just simply a different beast this time around. They will return home to Sky Stadium in Wellington for their last regular-season home game of 2022 v Melbourne Rebels on next Saturday night.

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