ACT Brumbies

Dwyer’s View: When the Going Gets Tough…

Dwyer’s View: When the Going Gets Tough…

At the business end of the SupeRugby season the going certainly gets tough but, rather than the tough getting going, it’s the talented who are coming to the fore. Pretty much across the teams, it’s the world-class players who are lifting and giving their team that winning edge. Some of these players were less than conspicuous in the early season encounters but, when the occasion has demanded it, they have shown their true class.

For most of the season to date, and with his team’s performance less than brilliant, Morné Steyn had almost dropped from consideration for the Springbok fly-half spot (at least in the minds of us amateur selectors). This weekend, however, in the Bulls’ crunch game against the high-flying Stormers at Newlands, Steyn showed led his team around the park for perhaps a season-defining win. Similarly, Victor Matfield showed all of his experience with composure and direction to take control and then to weather the storm for the duration.

Dan Carter, dare I say it, has been below his imperious best in a season interrupted by injury, but in the vitally important derby against conference leaders the Blues he led his team with finesse and perfect execution. The Crusaders now hold the lead in the New Zealand conference. Sitiveni Sivivatu, after a very slow start to this season, is now showing the tremendous ability that we’ve come to expect.

Kurtley: single-hand carry

For the second successive week, Kurtley Beale virtually carried the Waratahs’ attack single-handedly. James O’Connor for the Force and Quade Cooper for the Reds look at least one class above most of the others, and Matt Giteau led most of the successful raids from the Brumbies. David Pocock similarly remains stand-out world class, even in an all-Wallaby back-row. Stephen Moore was hard to find in the earlier rounds, but is now making significant contributions to his resurgent team.

So much for the high flyers – these are the players whom we’ve watched in awe in recent seasons. Indeed, these are the players we expect to dominate the Rugby World Cup in September and October. There are others, however, who have grown in stature throughout the Super Rugby season, in some cases from relative obscurity. In the Australian Conference there are a number who have done just this and have put down their marker for Wallaby squad selection.

Even from the lower-ranked teams there have emerged genuine contenders who will be invaluable as Australia strives for success in this toughest of arenas. At the Rebels, Jarrod Saffy continues to justify the promise he showed at the Waratahs Academy a few years back. Nick Phipps is the very picture of consistency and endeavour; Mark Gerrard is definitely worth another look and Richard Kingi is a great prospect, if we can only decide in which position. At the Brumbies, Pat McCabe has emerged as a strong prospect to fill a midfield position, which has looked a potential problem for the selectors all season. Add the Force’s Rory Sidey – he has that X-factor – and the centre position suddenly looks a lot healthier.

While I’m on the Force, their young front-rowers, Kieran Longbottom and Nathan Charles, and Sam Wykes at lock, will certainly handle the step up to international standard and will surely feature there sometime soon – maybe even this year. Sitaleki Timani is a similar prospect. The young Waratah lock has genuine size, pace and skill and, importantly, the confidence to use these qualities. If everything else is OK, there is no substitute for size!

The Reds have led the way in the Australian Conference and continue to hang in there – but only just! Radike Samo has returned perhaps a better player and has international experience. He could take a valuable role as a lock/no. 6 – which all of the great teams need. Elsom, Finnegan, Coker – to name a few – have filled such a role over the years.

So the Wallabies’ stocks look pretty bright, as D-Day looms for the selectors. Perhaps the most important people will be our medical staff, as they work to give us the maximum number of players fit and available for selection. The injury list remains extensive:

  • Waratahs: Kepu, Palu, Barnes, Mitchell, Horne;
  • Reds: Robinson, Harris, Hynes, Davies, Morahan;
  • Brumbies: Palmer, Ma’afu, Edmonds, Elsom;
  • Force: Cowan, Shepherd and maybe Sharpe;
  • Rebels: Pyle.

These players will all rate serious discussion at the selection table for this year’s extended Wallaby squad and all are currently injured. This totals 18 from an interim squad of 40! And it includes our captain! Like I said, the medical teams will be flat out over the next weeks and months – and not only for Australia.

On a side issue: I spent four days recently in Western Australia, working with the coaching staff of the young Joondalup Rugby Club in one of the newer northern Perth suburbs. Last weekend they fielded 515 players from juniors through to their four senior teams. I have no doubt that I saw some players there who will be Wallabies in the coming years, and a couple of their senior players would not be out of place right now at the Force. With this kind of player depth and with bands of dedicated and capable volunteers at the helm of clubs such as Joondalup, the future of our Wallaby teams is assured.

ACT Brumbies
@bobdwyerrugby

If you don't know Bob Dwyer is the world cup winning coach of the 1991 Wallabies, then give yourself an uppercut. He did a load in between, but he now runs Bob Dwyer's Rugby Workshops, which you can read more about on his site.

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