ACT Brumbies



The new Super format and how it will play out for teams in all three countries is one of the real unknowns this year.  There are just so many scenarios.  One possibility is that one team in one country is really dominant (eg. the Crusaders).  If it wins all its local games, most with bonus points, then it is likely to get an armchair ride to the finals and play the Grand Final at home if the other two countries’ teams are fairly even and the game results are tight.

Given the line-up the Crusaders have assembled and the relative weakness of the other NZ franchises, this is a real possibility.  Bonus points are critical in this competition, as are the locations you play the top teams from other countries.  Due to some quirk of the schedule, the Crusaders have only two hard other-country games away (Reds and Stormers) and play the Waratahs, Brumbies, Bulls and Sharks at home.  Get some money on them now; they’ve got a dream draw.

But that is not the only advantage they are likely to have.  The weather gods have decided that this will be a la Nina year.  In New Zealand that means the northern island weather is likely to be wetter than normal, but the southern island often experiences dry spells during a la Nina event.

In Australia, as we already know, la Nina brings rain; lots of it.  We can expect wet conditions through to the end of May and perhaps into June.  The further north you are the more rain is expected, although Melbourne can still be quite wet too.  Canberra does get more rain during la Nina but perhaps not quite as much as Sydney/Brisbane.  The lower temperatures there will however add to the misery.  Perth gets more rain during la Nina conditions but it’s not as extreme as the eastern states.

I can’t find any information on the impact of weather cycles on South African conditions, but since SA is on the other side of the globe to the factors controlling la Nina, it’s likely to have little effect.

What does this mean for the rugby?

It could be a very wet season and the teams likely to be worst affected are the Reds, the Waratahs, the Blues and the Hurricanes with lesser impacts on the Rebels, the Force, the Brumbies and the Chiefs.  The Crusaders could be experiencing dry conditions at home and perversely it could harm the Highlanders, as they seem to do better the wetter and colder it is.

You may recall the Waratahs-Highlanders match last year; I am still trying to forget it.  If it is a wet season, those players who are big, strong and good in the tight are going to prevail over fast, loose playing and lighter forwards.  Wingers mightn’t see too much ball at all and having good kickers will be a huge advantage.  Injuries are likely to be more frequent in wetter and colder weather.

The team problem with playing in wet conditions is that it makes attacking bonus points much harder to rack up and you can’t get a position in the top two without lots of them.  Under the new format the winner of the comp is likely to come from either first or second place due to the home ground advantage, the week off and the travel involved.

So it’s going to be very hard for the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies, Blues and Hurricanes to get the necessary bonus points if the weather goes as predicted.  All other things being equal, you would expect the Crusaders and either the Bulls or Stormers to finish 1-2.  The second SA team would be likely to take fourth place and a home semi-final because of being able to accumulate more bonus points.

Now the wonderful thing about the weather is that it’s not readily predictable week to week.  What is more likely to happen isn’t always what is going to happen.  Expert’s tipping forecasts are notoriously unreliable and so are weather tipsters.  A bit of a lucky run with dry Saturdays for one team could put them back in the frame.  But if you’re a bookie laying odds for the tournament then you’d shorten the odds for the Crusaders, Bulls and Stormers (and possibly the Sharks).

It will also impact the size of crowds at the wetter venues.  Rusted on supporters will always turn up but people on the fringes are likely to pass a game by if it’s forecasted to be bucketing down or freezing cold.  For the teams however, it could add to sales of merchandise if there’s a thick windcheater or raincoat in the team colours on sale at the game store.

G&GR has plenty of expert forecasters, so what do you think the influence of the weather might be?

ACT Brumbies

Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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