Beth Newman of Rugby.com.au takes a look at the Brumbies’ fortunes ahead of the opening round of Super Rugby AU.
Today, let’s look at the Brumbies.
WHERE WERE WE…?
The Brumbies had an absolutely flying start to the Super Rugby season earlier this year.
In stark contrast to previous seasons, the ACT outfit burst out of the blocks with impressive early victories against the Reds and Rebels before a last-gasp loss to the Highlanders.
They broke a 13-year losing streak in Hamilton and a six-year run across the ditch to beat the Chiefs in convincing fashion.
Their final two outings of the season were dominant victories over the Sunwolves and the Waratahs that put them well out in front of the rest of the Aussie teams.
A 47-14 win over the Waratahs.
The Brumbies have been the most stable of the four Super Rugby franchises when it comes to shutdown changes but their major moves have been in the lock department.
Lock Blake Enever was released from his contract and has signed with English side Leicester for next season.
An injury to Cadeyrn Neville opened the door to bring in former Brumbies and Sunwolves second rower Ben Hyne, who departed in 2019 the club after a series of knee injuries.
The Brumbies have kept their core coaching staff in Dan McKellar, Laurie Fisher, Pete Hewat and Ruaidhri Murphy.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The key to success
Picking up where they left off will be the biggest challenge for the Brumbies.
Players and coaches alike have been adamant this competition is about starting from scratch but they will want to replicate the momentum they were building in the early part of the year.
The difference this time is that players like Noah Lolesio and Tom Wright will be targets for opponents rather than the relative unknown quantities they were at the start of the season.
They’re close to the most versatile of the Australian teams when it comes to their attack, with their historic strength in set piece and a backline determined to show its dynamism after criticisms in recent seasons about their reliance on the pack.
Often the simplest tasks can become the most difficult to conquer but for the Brumbies their remit is relatively straightforward – keep doing what you’re doing.
Most important player
Allan Alaalatoa. The Brumbies have a lot of depth in their front row but Alaalatoa’s value continues to rise in this team.
As well as being the competition’s premier tighthead, he has stepped up as the team’s skipper this year.
The COVID-19 shutdown meant the Brumbies didn’t have to play a full game without him despite a broken arm he suffered against the Waratahs, and they wouldn’t want to.
Still tends to be somewhat underrated but there is no doubt he is the heart and soul of this Brumbies side.
Keep an eye on…
Mack Hansen. With question marks over Tom Banks’ fitness heading into round one, rookie Mack Hansen could step into some big shoes.
Hansen had high expectations on him coming through the ranks, compared to Stephen Larkham when he made his first grade debut, but he has had limited opportunities at the top level.
This could be a chance for him to shine in Super Rugby and push his case for more regular game time.
Time to step up…
Darcy Swain. This is no blight on the rookie second rower, who had an interrupted start in Super Rugby this year, but this Super Rugby AU season could prove his chance to take that Brumbies starting jersey and make it his own.
The Brumbies looked comfortably the best Australian side when Super Rugby shut down. With key players recovered from injuries, their biggest danger is complacency. If they can keep that at bay, they should be well-deserved favourites for this title.