The Australian rugby teams lost all four games against overseas opposition last weekend. The Waratahs couldn’t hold onto the ball against the Lions; the Reds were overrun by the Chiefs; the Rebels couldn’t overcome jet lag and the loss of Will Genia; and the Brumbies had a close loss to the Jaguares.
These results, however, are not as bad as they seem. No Australian rugby team looms as a title threat, but they each have a deficiency in a different area. As important, none of them were outright favourites to win this weekend anyway. Only the Waratahs can be said to have been disappointing, failing to score a point for the first time ever in Super Rugby.
The Reds do not have the skill and pace to compete with the New Zealand sides, the Brumbies do not have the halves to take advantage of their strong forwards and the Rebels were without their on-field tactician, as well as suffering the jet lag from flying to South Africa. The Waratahs have no excuse – they were a lot worse than they should have been. They were, however, playing the team that has been runner up in Super Rugby for the last two years.
Even the game in Sydney had some positives. Despite continually turning over possession and gifting the Lions with field position and the ball, they held the South Africans to 29. If the New South Welshmen had been anywhere close to their usual standards with ball in hand, 29 (which the Lions wouldn’t have got without all the turnovers) would not have been enough to beat them.
The Waratahs have been capable of producing the odd shocker for a long time, and one bad week does not undo their season generally so far. They are still a good chance to end the run of losses to the New Zealander sides, and are the best Australian rugby team.
One positive is that even though there is no dominant Australian team they all have different strengths and weaknesses, which looks positive when they come together to form the Wallabies.
The Reds, for example, have power and pace in their backline and a strong forward pack. They do not, however, have creativity in their halves. The Rebels similarly have an excellent pack and strong outside backs, but lack direction around the field under pressure. The Brumbies are strong at the set piece and around the ruck but weaker out wide.
The Waratahs have strong halves and creative playmakers, along with power and pace throughout the backline. Their forward pack is underweight however. Combining the strengths of the four sides will make a potent national team. Even putting together the Reds forwards with the Waratahs backs (and Michael Hooper) would make a decent team!