Brumbies look best of Australian sides

Brumbies winger Henry Speight sticks an arm out to keep off defenders against the Lions last...
Brumbies winger Henry Speight sticks an arm out to keep off defenders against the Lions last season. Photo: Getty Images
The teams in the Australian conference have only one way to go after last year’s disappointing Super Rugby season. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn looks at the sides seeking to win back some respect.



If the Waratahs start off slowly and are out of the running by late May then coach Daryl Gibson will be a dead man walking.

The side won the competition in 2014 but has been on the slide ever since.

Last season was poor and the team managed a woeful 16th.

It has some real quality players in Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and the returning Kurtley Beale. There is some signs of promise in the forwards and the signing of lock Rob Simmons is a plus.

The Waratahs have lacked a cutthroat mentality in the past couple of years and need to eliminate the silly mistakes.Looked big in Queenstown in a pre-season match but were slow of body and mind.

Coach: Daryl Gibson

Key forward: Flanker and captain Michael Hooper

Key back: First five-eighth Bernard Foley

Last year: 16th

Prediction: Quarterfinals



There has been plenty of change at the Reds with Brad Thorn installed as coach and Quade Cooper told to look elsewhere. The side has also lost veteran rake Stephen Moore.

The halcyon days of the 2011 title win have long gone and the side does not have much depth.

There is experience in the form of Scott Higginbotham and James Slipper but plenty of holes. The drama of Karmichael Hunt has not helped.

The side does not look like it has a game breaker in the backs and the decision to ditch Cooper may come back to haunt it.

Thorn is preaching hard work and toil so the Reds will give it everything. But in this competition those qualities can only go so far. Class wins out.

Thorn will at least bring a few back to Suncorp Stadium.

Coach: Brad Thorn

Key forward: Lock Uzack Rodda

Key back: Five-eighth Jono Rance

Last year: 14th

Prediction: 12th



The Brumbies have been the best side in the Australian conference in the past couple of years.

But in reality that does not mean much, as both years the side has lost at the first stage of the playoffs.

Coach Stephen Larkham has moved fulltime to the Wallabies and the Brumbies have replaced within as Dan McKellar makes the step up.

He has  David Pocock back, although the flanker has picked up a knee injury and will miss the opening weeks.

Christian Lealiifano is back from serious illness and his return will be a bonus.But the side has lost some experienced loose forwards, which could hurt it.

One was never going to die from excitement watching the Brumbies over the past few years and not much will change there.

But the style has been effective and this should continue in most of their games.

Coach: Dan McKellar

Key forward: Lock Sam Carter

Key back: Inside back Kyle Godwin

Last year: Quarterfinals

Prediction: Semifinals



The Rebels were lucky to survive the cull of Super Rugby sides and have reacted by overhauling their roster and also bringing in a new coach.

Dave Wessels comes over from the Force and has brought plenty of players with him.But the Force was poor, so are these players going to make the Rebels any better?

There have been other arrivals with halfback Will Genia joining after a stint in France and English lock Geoff Parling is also heading down under.

Loose forward Sean McMahon has moved to Japan and his absence will be felt.

The Rebels finished dead last in 2017 and the display they put on against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium was memorable, as it was so woeful.

The side should not sink to those depths again. If it does, it will be a long season.

Coach: Dave Wessels

Key forward: Lock Geoff Parling

Key back: Winger Dane Haylett-Petty

Last year: 18th

Prediction: 15th



Fans of the Highlanders will keep a close eye on the performances of the Sunwolves.

The Japanese side is coached by the Highlanders’ past two coaches.

Jamie Joseph is in charge and has Tony Brown as his assistant coach. Former Canterbury halfback Scott Hansen is the defence coach.

The Sunwolves will be spirited and abrasive under Joseph and  Brown is bound to have plenty of tricks up his sleeve. The side has been boosted by some former Highlanders and other foreign talent.

The arrival of Japanese skipper Michael Leitch, who returns from the Chiefs, is a boost for the side, although he must stay injury-free.

The side always struggles with the travel but should play well in its base in Tokyo.

Coach: Jamie Joseph

Key forward: Loose forward Leitch

Key back: Halfback Fumiaki Tanaka

Last year: 17th

Prediction: 14th

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