Super Rugby AU, Round Seven - Teams and Predictions
MIRACLE WIN: Waratahs maintain they can pull off a sporting miracle and break their season duck in one of the Super Rugby AU club’s most turbulent weeks in history.
The winless Waratahs are given next to no chance when they host the defending champion Brumbies at the SCG on Friday.
Reeling in turmoil following last Sunday’s dramatic sacking of coach Rob Penney following three record defeats in five outings in 2021, the Waratahs are rated 10-1 long shots in a two-team race.
But returning skipper Jake Gordon defiantly insists the end goal must be to win despite the enormous odds stacked against them.
“We have to focus on our process to get there but we’ve got some tools in place that can benefit us and we think being professional athletes and competitive, we’re there to win,” Gordon said after Thursday’s captain’s run.
“We’ve got a great plan this week around how we’re going to nullify their attacking opportunities.
“We know they’ve got a really strong set piece, a very big forward pack.
“Lennie [Ikita] and Irae [Simone] are doing a really good job in the centres and they’ve got obviously Tom Wright back out wide.
“So great coverage across the field but we have a few tricks in there to I guess nullify their set piece.”
Gordon, who hasn’t played since suffering a high-ankle injury in round one, conceded Penney’s axing was a shock to the entire Waratahs system.
“It’s a reality check for everybody here,” he said.
“In a high-performance environment, you’re never really safe and results dictate your future.
“It’s unlucky that it’s happened to Rob but it’s a reality check to the group that performance is the No.1 [priority] here.”
Gordon also confessed to being bewildered by the Tahs’ abject start to the season, despite the franchise enduring a mass exodus of senior players and a wretched run with injury.
“It’s been hard,” the scrumhlaf said.
“If you’d asked me at the start of the year, I wouldn’t have expected this to happen.
“It has been very hard to watch.”
Gordon said he knew he had fully recovered from his syndesmosis after getting through a hearty contact session on Tuesday.
“The biggest thing is tackling in the same position and it felt really good so I’m ready to go,” he said.
“I’m rehabbed. Some are a lot harder [sessions] than the training sessions. I’ve been doing a lot of conditioning so I’m in fairly good nick.”
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Meanwhile, The Queensland Reds travelled to Melbourne on Thursday from Sydney, where they’ve spent the week after being forced to stay on following their win over the Waratahs after Brisbane was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak.
With South Africa no longer part of the Super Rugby competition and the long-haul trips that came with it, Reds coach Brad Thorn said his team were embracing some time together on the road.
“It’s not the end of the world to be stuck at Coogee, it’s a nice spot, it’s a change-up,” Thorn said on Thursday.
“With Super Rugby AU it’s not like normal Super Rugby where you go to Africa for a couple of weeks – that used to be a challenging trip but it was also a good bonding time for the team so in a way it’s been a positive thing.”
The Reds can at least travel home after the match after the Brisbane lockdown was lifted and will host the Brumbies Saturday week.
Queensland will be without star wing Suliasi Vunivalu in a blow for their attack given the former Melbourne Storm flyer knows AAMI Park intimately after his years with the NRL premiers.
Suffering a hamstring injury, Thorn expected him to be sidelined for up to three weeks.
In their last clash, the Reds pipped the Rebels by two points, with flyhalf Matt Toomua missing a penalty kick after regulation time to win it for the visitors
Thorn acknowledged that the Rebels had improved since that round two meeting.
“It’s always a tough contest – we saw they were buoyed to be finally back at home playing and they will be excited about that,” Thorn said.
“They have improved as we see them as a really big challenge and we’re going to have to be on our game to go down there and get the result that they want.”
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We take a closer look at Round Seven’s matches!
Friday, April 2:
Waratahs v Brumbies
(Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney – Kick-off: 19.45, 09.45 GMT)
The Brumbies have won 10 of their last 11 Super Rugby games against the NSW Waratahs, including their last seven on the bounce; they defeated the Waratahs by 51 points in their most recent meeting (61-10–February 2021), their biggest winning margin over a fellow Australian team in Super Rugby history.
This will be the NSW Waratahs’ 350th game in Super Rugby history and defeat would bring them their 167th loss, the equal third-most in the history of the competition alongside the Bulls (Reds 183, Highlanders 176).
The NSW Waratahs have conceded 40.2 points per game in the 2021 Super Rugby AU campaign, the most ever by an Australian team and the 10th most any team in a season in the history of the competition.
The Brumbies have conceded just nine turnovers per game in the 2021 Super Rugby AU season, the fewest of any team and seven per game fewer than they conceded in the 2020 campaign.
Nic White (Brumbies) has made one try assist in each of his last two Super Rugby appearances and has been directly involved in three tries in his last three games against the NSW Waratahs.
@rugby365com: Brumbies by 10 points.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 James Ramm, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Max Douglas, 4 Jeremy Williams, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Michael Wood, 20 Charlie Gamble, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Mark Nawaqanitawase.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Harry Lloyd.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Fred Kaihea, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 James Tucker, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Mack Hansen.
Assistant referees: TBC
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Saturday, April 3:
Melbourne Rebels v Queensland Reds
(AAMI Park, Melbourne – Kick-off: 19.45, 18.45 AEST; 08.45 GMT)
The Queensland Reds are undefeated in their last four Super Rugby games against the Rebels; they defeated the Rebels by two points in their most recent meeting
(23-21 – February 2021), the closest winning margin in a game in the history of this fixture.
The Rebels have won their last three Super Rugby games at AAMI Park; a fourth consecutive victory in this match would equal the club record at their home venue last set in 2015.
The Queensland Reds have scored 10 tries in the final quarters of games in the 2021 Super Rugby AU campaign, twice as many as the Rebels have scored in total.
The Rebels have had an average of just 13 minutes and 58 seconds of time in possession per game this Super Rugby AU season, the lowest of any team in the competition.
James O’Connor (Queensland Reds) has scored a competition – high 62 points this Super Rugby AU season, while teammate Alex Mafi has a tally of six tries scored – twice as many as any other player and more than the entire Rebels team combined
@rugby365com: Reds by seven points.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Joshua Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cabous Eloff.
Replacements – from: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Albert Anae, 19 Tom Nowlan, 20 Robert Leota, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Lewis Holland, 23 Jeral Skelton, 24 Lucio Sordoni, 25 Glen Vaihu.
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O’Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Feao Fotuaika.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Richie Asiata, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Josh Flook, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Assistant referees: TBC
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks
Additional Source: AAP
*Statistical information provided by Stats Perform