S15 preview - Brumbies v Reds

2014-02-24 11:59
Brumbies v Hurricanes (Gallo Images)
With both the New Zealand and South African conferences on their way, it’s time to head Down Under and deliberate the expectations of Australia’s fiercest competitors. Last year’s runners-up will host the 2011 champs with both teams gunning for the top spot on their country’s log as that’s probably going to be their best shot at getting into the qualifying rounds.

Canberra’s Brumbies set themselves up perfectly to start this season off as serious contenders, and then Jake White abruptly left them hanging in order to pursue a more lucrative career back home. Not long after the announcement was made that captain Ben Mowen would also just see out the year before moving his career to Europe. Two big psychological blows in a short space of time, not something I think this young side will deal with without serious glitches.
David Pocock

David Pocock

The saying goes that a new broom sweeps clean, but if you’re gonna scrub away and there’s no dirt, the polish will come off. Promoted co-coaches Stephan Larkham and Laurie Fisher are said to adapt a more adventurous style of play than the finals-type method applied by The Magician. This might be costly, especially considering the below par performances by the core of their squad when they ran out for the Wallabies.

Good news is that they have David Pocock back from injury to fill the huge hole George Smith is bound to leave with his return to the ¥en. Even though the Brumbies still boast a large number of unknowns, they come forth as a well balanced team. If they can stick to the basics, secure enough possession and take care of not playing too much high risk rugby, they’ll be in it to win it.

Whereas the ponies faltered in gold, the November Tests saw the resurgence of the Reds’ halfbacks. The Will Genia and Quade Cooper combination is key to the Queenslanders’ attack. For when they are on fire, the Reds are unstoppable.  On a good day for all, I would always back Genia and Cooper above Nic White and Matt Toomua/Chriatian Lealiifano – they’re simply in a class of their own.

Things in Brisbane aren’t that cut and dry though. Ewen McKenzie is not at the helm of Australian rugby, leaving Richard Graham to run the show on his own. The only new face on the Sushine Coast worth mentioning, is that of Lachie Turner, an experienced Waratahs recruit that will lend a lot of pace to the backline in the absence of Digby Ioane (France) and Luke Morahan (Force).
Will Genia & Quade Cooper

Will Genia & Quade Cooper

Their very useful forwards include leader of the pack James Horwill as well as Liam Gill, Saia Fainga’a and James Slipper. These guys are tireless grafters with a tendency to keep their noses to the grindstone, yet they always seem to end up in the spotlight.

They blew hot and cold during the two pre-season trial runs, shining bright against the defending champions before falling flat on their faces to a much improved Rebels team.

There’s nothing like a shock loss to restore focus and the entire Reds squad will be out to redeem themselves. On the other hand, the Brumbies’ smooth sailing run-away victory over the university side could have put them in a too relaxed state of mind.

Reds by 6

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