By Alan Dymock
BEFORE THE weekend there was a wee bit of chatter under the equator about whether or not the Australian conference was the weakest of the three Super Rugby pools. However, even if this were true – it’s the kind of assumption that idle Europeans would be best to avoid at any cost – there are sublime players in each franchise.
Anyway, resurrection seems to be the theme from this weekend…
Will Genia (Reds)
He has slowly been working his way back from injury and in the 19-12 loss to the Western Force he was outplayed by a pumped-up Alby Mathewson, but in the Reds 23-18 win over the Bulls on Saturday the talismanic scrum-half put in an all-action display.
He was only on the field for an hour, but he was lively enough and accurate enough to suggest that he will be back up to speed this summer.
Quade Cooper (Reds)
Outside Genia was an old pal, not clambering back after injury but trying to sort his head out.
Cooper had his usual disruptive off-season, seeking out battles, even in the ring, and generally assuming that his talents would be appreciated come the Super Rugby season. Against the Bulls, though, he finally took a shine to himself. Perhaps it was the influence of his running mate Will, but when he took quick ball in the Bulls 22 and cut against the grain, rounding a drifting defender and helping himself to a vital try, there was a sense that QC was finally ready for a harsh cross-examination by the Lions pride. Now, can he can maintain his form?
George Smith (Brumbies)
Adrift in Africa, the Brumbies have had an okay time. However, with the loss of rising superstar full-back Jesse Mogg for the clash against the Stormers and with free-thieving phenomenon David Pocock out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury, the Brumbies needed a hero.
So, who you gonna call? Well. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s fresh for the fight. He’s George Smith.
Granted, in the end the Brumbies succumbed to their beefy South African counterparts, unable to play with the same sensual rhythm they have pumped out all season, but Smith passed muster. His unexpected comeback is coming at the right time for the Wallabies.
Benn Robinson (Waratahs)
The loose-head is having a standout season so far. The Australian scrum options are often maligned and regularly ridiculed, but in Robinson they have a classy operator. He can offload, he can tussle with the best of them and he is confident at the set-piece.
Oh boy. What can you say about the team that were beaten like a dusty rug when they settled Natal? A 64-7 loss to the Sharks is not only a drubbing and an embarrassment; it is also something that may prove tough to come back from.
This is a team that has stars like Gareth Delve attempting to help James O’Connor or Scott Higginbotham toil to victory, but sometimes it gets harder when other teammates act out…
After the 10-try pasting the players of the Rebels decided the only way to get over it was to head out in Durban. Cue hazy stories about Delve informing Beale on a bus that he had to put his shirt back on before heading into the team hotel. Winger Cooper Vuna stepped in to break things up and got a shot aimed at his chops by Beale.
This story needing cleared up, but it is a fact that Vuna and Beale have both been sent home in disgrace.
What a sorry story. It had been hoped that Beale would settle this season, as well…
Both the Tahs and the Reds won games at home, while the Brumbies and Rebels where steamrollered in South Africa. If we ignore the Force losing to the Cheetahs at home (although again it was against RSA lads) then it could be stated, in a patently obvious manner, that the teams struggled on the road.
Why say something as plain as the nose on my stupid face? Well it is because it can hint at a job needing done by any away fans. If the Lions supporters can make the Aussies feel outnumbered in their own home, maybe, just maybe, the red collective can unsettle the Wallabies players who are conditioned to lose when the going gets tough.