Brumbies among title contenders in 2020
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: The Brumbies are poised to again dominate the Australian conference of Super Rugby and have the potential go at least one step further and make the tournament’s final in 2020.
Despite the loss of veterans Sam Carter, Rory Arnold and Christian Lealiifano, the Brumbies squad remains one of the most potent in Super Rugby as it has a forward pack that can deliver points, but also possession to a dangerous backline that has the firepower to do the same.
Boasting a forwards contingent that comprises of Wallabies Scott Sio, Folau, Fainga’a, Alan Alaalatoa, James Slipper, Blake Enever, Pete Samu and Rob Valetini, the Brumbies will yet again be clinical and damaging at set-piece under the eye of veteran forwards coach Laurie Fisher.
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Such experience will be joined by exciting emerging talent such as the 205cm Nick Frost, who demonstrated his potential whilst appearing for the Junior Wallabies in the World Under-20 Championship and impressed with his try against Ireland last year.
Both Frost and fellow emerging lock Darcy Swain will likely appear alongside Enever in the locking role during the season, and will thus provide credible line-out options, allowing the Brumbies to maintain their preference for commencing their attack with a driving maul.
Yet there will be more attacking options on offer for the Brumbies of 2020.
Team legend Christian Lealiifano has left for Japan and some may consider the Brumbies are in a similar position to the Waratahs, who could struggle to fill the void left by Bernard Foley.
The Brumbies, however, do not need a flyhalf that will make the crunch decisions, lead the younger players around and win them the game as the Waratahs might.
All the Brumbies need is a flyhalf who can underplay his own game and put the larger forward runners, such as Lachlan McCaffrey and Rob Valetini, into the right areas of the park to breach the gain line.
That should unleash potent outside backs like Tom Banks, Toni Pulu and former Rugby League player Solomone Kata, who is a proven try-scorer in that code after scoring 46 tries in 93 appearances for the New Zealand Warriors.
The Brumbies are blessed with youthful talent in the flyhalf role in particular thanks to the addition of Reesjan Pasitoa, who is a product of Nudgee College in Brisbane, which is a known Wallaby factory.
At only 18 years of age, the evidently talented Pasitoa will not likely start for the Brumbies in 2020, but will likely feature during the season from the bench along with local product Mack Hansen.
The player most likely to replace Lealiifano and his former understudy Wharenui Hawera, who has also moved on this year, is Jordan Jackson-Hope.
At 23 years of age, 2020 is the season the former Australian Schools and Under-20s player must demonstrate that he is the Super Rugby player that his talent suggests he is.
He has previously played for the Brumbies in 2016, but has been in the Super Rugby wilderness since despite impressing with his club form for the Tuggeranong Vikings.
Much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Jackson-Hope, although he will not carry that responsibility alone as the attack will be orchestrated by Wallabies scrumhalf Joe Powell, who will know how to balance out Jackson-Hope’s workload and bring him into the game as required.
The backs will be coached by former Waratahs fullback Peter Hewat, who appears to be a coach on the rise after a successful 2019 with the Australian Schools and U18 side that defeated New Zealand across the ditch.
Hewat will get the Brumbies to play a more attacking and counter-attacking brand of rugby as seen in recent years.
His inherent attacking assertiveness ensures the Canberra side have the balance to score from both set piece and broken play, which will make them an exceptionally difficult team to defend against.
The Brumbies have points in them through the set-piece, middle of the park and flanks which make them credible contenders for the 2020 Super Rugby crown.
Under the guidance of head coach Dan McKellar, they are in exceptionally good hands to achieve such an outcome.
Mentioned in dispatches as a potential Wallabies coach of the future, McKellar learned his rugby at the famous Souths Magpies in Brisbane, and the North Queenslander brings all the teak a former front rower should.
However, the 43-year-old is not limited by his attraction to only being physically dominant to achieve success.
He is an articulate communicator who appears to have the ability to get the most out of what he has at his disposal and is more pragmatic than dogmatic in his approach to the game plan.
Despite their prowess in the forwards, McKellar is a shrewd enough operator to know the Brumbies must be more than one-trick ponies if they are to progress deep into the finals.
Considering what the entire organisation appears to be able to deliver, 2020 may yet be the year of the Brumby.
By Nick Turnbull, @RugbyPass