Brumbies look clearly best chance; Rebels down and out

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Maaaate, ya dreamin’. An Australian team will certainly not win the Super Rugby title. And could this even be the last dance for one of them? Hayden Meikle continues the countdown to the new season.


Last year: Won 10, lost 4, fourth, beat Hurricanes 37-33 in quarterfinal, lost to Chiefs 19-6 in semifinal.

Coach: Stephen Larkham (second year, second stint).

Key forward: Tom Hooper is a relentless force on the blindside flank. The tackling machine was part of Eddie Jones’s failed World Cup experiment but will surely earn many more test caps.

Key back: Nobody gained more metres (1418) in 2023 than Brumbies fullback Tom Wright. The league convert has a special blend of timing and acceleration.

One to watch: Ryan Lonergan finally gets a shot to own the No 9 jersey following Nic White’s move to the Force.

Chances: The Brumbies have long had the most successful recipe in Australian rugby and it seems certain they will be the only real chance of stopping a Kiwi title this year. Talismanic prop Allan Alaalatoa will be missed until he returns from injury, but the likes of Rob Valetini, Nick Frost, Nick Reimer and the ageless James Slipper will anchor the pack. Len Ikitau is dangerous in the midfield, and Noah Lolesio and Jack Debreczeni are fine options at first five.

Meikle’s prediction: Third.


Last year: Won 6, lost 8, sixth, lost to Blues 41-12 in quarterfinal.

Coach: Darren Coleman (third year).

Key forward: Experienced lock Jed Holloway was the leading lineout exponent in all of Super Rugby last year.

Key back: Mark Nawaqanitawase has shocked Australian rugby by deciding to join the NRL after this season. The Waratahs’ hopes of scoring some tries rest heavily on his shoulders.

One to watch: Max Jorgensen, the 19-year-old outside back who is returning from injury, has created all sorts of excitement in Sydney.

Chances: Took a step backwards last year, and now the great Michael Hooper has gone. Angus Bell, Jake Gordon and Izaia Perese are quality performers but depth is an issue.

Meikle’s prediction: Ninth.


Last year: Won 5, lost 9, eighth, lost to Chiefs 29-20 in quarterfinal.

Coach: Les Kiss (replaces Brad Thorn).

Key forward: Fraser McReight is as good a flanker as any in the competition.

Key back: Tate McDermott, one of 27 captains used by the Wallabies last year, can be electric behind the scrum.

One to watch: Harry McLaughlin-Phillips has come from nowhere to shape as a contender for the No10 jersey.

Chances: Decent if McReight and Harry Wilson can shine behind an underwhelming tight five missing Taniela Tupou, and if McDermott, Jordan Petaia and Jock Campbell can generate some spark out the back.

Meikle’s prediction: Eighth.


Last year: Won 5, lost 9, 10th.

Coach: Simon Cron (second year)

Key forward: Izack Rodda is a classy lock and desperate to get back into action after a long break with a foot problem.

Key back: The collapse of English club Wasps forced Sam Spink to look for opportunities elsewhere, and the centre had an outstanding first season with the Force.

One to watch: Harry Potter. Can the English winger create some magic? Sorry.

Chances: A real wildcard team. The recruitment of Nic White, Ben Donaldson and former All Blacks prop Atu Moli offers some hope for Force fans. But where will the tries come from?

Meikle’s prediction: 10th.


Last year: Won 4, lost 10, 11th.

Coach: Kevin Foote (third year).

Key forward: Rob Leota is the captain, star loose forward and unwanted public face of the biggest story in Australian rugby (see below).

Key back: When Andrew Kellaway runs, you stand up and get ready for something to happen.

One to watch: Mason Gordon is the younger brother of Wallabies and Rebels first five Carter, and would no doubt love to push his sibling for some time at No10.

Chances: Dead men walking. The Rebels are broke — $20million in debt — and there have been mass redundancies off the field. Rugby Australia has only guaranteed the Rebels will play the 2024 season. Sadly, that could be it.

Meikle’s prediction: 11th.