It’s been a tough year for Australian Rugby, with rumours the Western Force or Melbourne Rebels are being dumped, Australian Super Rugby teams failing to beat any NZ Super teams and the Wallabies struggling in three mid-season Tests against Fiji, Scotland and Italy. The ACT Brumbies won the Australian Conference with a 6-9 record – indicating how poor the Australian teams have been – and host a quarter final at Bruce Stadium against the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday July 21st.
ACT Brumbies (6-9, +36, 34 points): In the old Super 12/14 days, a 6-9 record would be a middle-to-lower table finish. The conference system means the Brumbies earn a home quarter final as the “best” Australian team. After three wins from their first 10 games, the Brumbies found some rhythm with three straight wins against the Kings (in South Africa), the Jaguares (in Argentina) and the Rebels (back at Bruce), securing the Aussie Conference before the month-long International break. The Brumbies’ whopping 10 bonus points and positive points differential helped overcome their lack of wins. Can the Brumbies find form against the Hurricanes or will their season end Friday night?
Western Force (6-9, -91, 26): considering the turmoil around their future, the Force had a decent year. Three of their six wins came in the last four games, beating the Reds, Rebels and Waratahs. The Force were never going to challenge the Brumbies for the Australian Conference, but a second place finish (just eight points behind the Brumbies) could help them survive beyond 2017.
Queensland Reds (4-11, -158, 21): a Super Rugby force only six years ago, the Reds have fallen hard. They started well, with a two-point win against the Sharks at Lang Park and bonus point losses to the Force and Crusaders. The Reds’ other three wins were against the Kings, Rebels and a last-minute win over the Brumbies. The loss that hurt the most was by three points to NSW at Lang Park. The Reds put a lot of effort into pumping up the old rivalry, wore special maroon jerseys and were cheered on by a parochial home crowd. It wasn’t to be.
NSW Waratahs (4-11, -126, 19): last season, the Waratahs were engaged in a compelling battle for the Australian Conference with the Brumbies. This season, the Waratahs fell away horribly. The Waratahs won their first game against the Force, beat the Rebels twice and the Reds at Lang Park. Losing their last four games destroyed any hope of catching the Brumbies. A shock home loss to the struggling Kings summed up their doldrums.
Melbourne Rebels (1-1-13, -333. 9): the Rebels’ home loss to the Jaguares could be their last Super Rugby game. In a horrible year for Australian teams, the Rebels plunged to Adam Sandler-levels of mediocrity. The Rebels’ only win came against the Brumbies in Melbourne, while the managed a 9-9 draw against the Sharks in South Africa. The signs were bad from the start, losing 56-18 to the Blues and 71-6 to the Hurricanes. The worst part? Conceding 569 points at at average of nearly 38. The Rebels will be lucky to play in Super Rugby 2018.