Super Rugby AU, Round two - Teams and Predictions
THE BEST OF ENEMIES: Noah Lolesio and Will Harrison weren’t even born when the fuse was lit on the fractious rivalry between the Brumbies and NSW Waratahs.
Even devoted rugby fans who search through all the feisty on-field clashes, epic matches and off-field niggle won’t find the exact moment anywhere in the 25-year history of professional rugby.
That’s because it pre-dates the birth of Super Rugby but we’ll get to that in a minute. Saturday night’s latest edition at GIO Stadium in Canberra will remind us again that rivalries of deep feeling can sprout and flourish quickly even in the modern era. Brumbies v Waratahs.
The rivalry is intense, it’s real and it can drag out underdog upsets. The ledger – 20 wins to the Brumbies and 17 to the Waratahs – says it all about how tight it is.
For that very reason, there is no way that flyhalf Lolesio and the Brumbies will be underestimating the wounded Waratahs without sidelined skipper Jake Gordon.
Lolesio and Waratahs flyhalf Will Harrison, both just 21, have been competing or playing together since Australian Schoolboys and Under-20s days.
“’Harro’ is a good mate of mine. We’ve grown up playing together so it’s awesome to see him do well at the ‘Tahs,” Lolesio said.
“I’m looking forward to playing against him.
“It’s always exciting to play against the ‘Tahs and it’s our first home game for our fans.
“We definitely expect them to be hurting and a better team than they showed us in Round One.”
Waratahs wing James Ramm definitely expects his team to improve markedly and the underdog tag sits comfortably with him.
“We like it. We’re a young team, there’s a bit about us, it’s a growing year, we’ve lost a captain, we enjoy playing an exciting brand of footy…all those remarks flow in and build us,” Ramm said.
*Article continues below…
The ‘ruthless’ Reds
Melbourne are on high alert for the rampant Reds in their Super Rugby AU clash on Friday, with captain Matt Toomua saying the Queenslanders have a new edge to their game.
With the bye in round one, the Rebels were keen observers of the Reds in their crushing 41-7 win over the NSW Waratahs.
Veteran Wallaby Toomua, who will form a new halves partnership with ex-Brumbies No.9 Joe Powell at Suncorp Stadium, said the home side were a dangerous team.
And that’s without former NRL star Suliasi Vunivalu, who missed the opening match through suspension but has been named to make his rugby debut off the Reds bench.
Toomua said the ruthless nature of the victory had shown the growth in the young Queenslanders.
“They’re a team in form; they’re probably one of the more exciting teams to watch,” Toomua told AAP.
“The way they stuck it out on the weekend shows they’ve got a level of maturity that they probably didn’t have two or three years ago so they’re going to be tough.”
Reds scrumhalf Tate McDermott said he’d been working hard on his kicking game after feedback from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and would look to do some damage against the Rebels.
He said he’d relish the chance to prove himself against Powell, who was also part of the Wallabies squad and helped steer the Brumbies to the 2020 Super Rugby AU grand final win over the Reds.
“If I can do it properly, and I have been putting quite a large amount of time into that side of things, it really benefits the team,” McDermott said.
“If the team needs me to kick I will 100 per cent put my hand and you saw that (against NSW).”
Melbourne have dropped their opening games in 2019 and 2020 but Toomua said they were raring to get their season started, particularly after being forced out of Victoria again due to a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this month.
They also haven’t beaten Queensland in their last three outings.
Toomua missed most of Australia’s Tri-Nations campaign with a serious groin injury but is back to full fitness, although fellow Test players Dane Haylett-Petty (head) and No.8 Isi Naisarani (hip) are out.
Tom Pincus is a surprise choice to start at fullback in his place, with the 2020 recruit having only played on the wing previously for Melbourne.
Prop Cabous Eloff gets his first starting debut as does Olympic sevens player Lachie Anderson, who is on the wing.
Stacey Ili will make his Super Rugby debut, partnering Reece Hodge in the centres.
*Article continues below…
Friday, February 26
Reds v Rebels
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Kick-off: 18.45; 19.45 AEDT; 08.45 GMT)
The Reds are undefeated in their last three Super Rugby games against the Rebels (W2, D1) after having won only two of their seven meetings in the competition prior (L5).
The Rebels began both their 2020 Super Rugby and Super Rugby AU campaigns with a loss after having opened six of their seven campaigns prior with a win.
The Reds have scored the opening try of the game in six of their last eight Super Rugby games against the Rebels, including their last three on the bounce; however, there has been only one try scored within the opening 10 minutes by either team in that span.
Filipo Daugunu (Reds) has crossed for five tries in his last five Super Rugby games, including a brace in the opening round of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season; he has scored one try in three of his last five Super Rugby games against the Rebels.
Jordan Uelese (Rebels) had a lineout throw success rate of 89 percent (85/96) in the 2020 Super Rugby AU campaign, the highest of any player to attempt at least 25 throws.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Reds by nine points
Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Seru Uru, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Ryan Smith, 20 Sam Wallis, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu.
Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Lachlan Anderson, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Brad Wilkin, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Pone Faamausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cabous Eloff.
Replacements: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18 Rhys van Nek, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Josh Kemeny, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Glen Vaihu, 23 Frank Lomani.
Referee: Jordan Way
Assistant referee: Damon Murphy, Aaron Pook
TMO: Brett Cronan
Saturday, February 27
Brumbies v Waratahs
(GIO Stadium, Canberra – Kick-off: 19:45, 08.45 GMT)
The Brumbies have won nine of their last 10 Super Rugby games against the NSW Waratahs (L1), including their last six meetings on the bounce; only against two teams have they won more than seven consecutive games in the competition (W12 vs Reds from 2000 to 2010; W10 vs Force from 2014 to 2021).
The Brumbies have won 16 of their last 17 Super Rugby games on home turf (L1), including their last six on the bounce.
The Brumbies boast a tackle success rate of 85 percent in Super Rugby AU since the beginning of 2020, the highest of any team in the competition and five percentage points higher than that of NSW Waratahs (80percent).
Tom Banks (Brumbies) has gained 610 metres in Super Rugby AU, the second-most of any player in the competition behind Reds’ Filipo Daugunu (872m).
Jake Gordon (NSW Waratahs) has scored the opening try of the game on three occasions in Super Rugby AU since the beginning of the 2020 campaign, the most of any player.
Head to head
@rugby365com: The Brumbies by 12 points
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 4 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome (captain), 12 Tepai Moeroa, 11 James Ramm, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Sam Caird, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 David Porecki, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Sio Tatola, 19 Jeremy Williams, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Henry Robertson, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Triston Reilly
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett & Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie
*Additional source: Rugbycomau & AAP
* Stats courtesy of Stats Perform