Why an Australian Super Rugby franchise must go
THE latest round of Super rugby is a further handbrake on contentions that Australia deserves to keep their five teams in any revamped competition.
How's that argument shaping when the Waratahs emerged as the only winner with an efficient last few plays after flailing around for most of the match against a Rebels side who have been a doormat for much of this tournament.
The Force couldn't cope in their game, the Brumbies choked once more and the Reds lost their bearings. They need to put aside Quade Cooper's bleat-tweet and focus on reality.
A combined six wins from 23 matches is a grim Australian collection to counter suggestions at least one side needs to be culled if rugby wants to bring a decent game to the commercial sporting tussles.
An emphasis for the Brumbies was to challenge and beat New Zealand sides. Coach Stephen Larkham made that clear as he spoke about reversing the combined lack of success Australian sides had last season in their trans-Tasman contests.
On Saturday, the Brumbies had a great stage to offer some redress for last year's qualifying final slip-up when they hosted a Highlanders side hampered by injury and struggling with their confidence after a run of defeats.
A tight plan based on a strong scrum and driving mauls from their pack gave them a 10-0 lead but the Brumbies looked vulnerable when the game became unstructured. It did often enough for the Highlanders to find the necessary venom to steal an 18-13 victory and leave the Brumbies facing more introspection.
They messed up late against the Crusaders, lost to the Sharks with a try after the buzzer then fell to a late Highlanders converted try at the weekend.
Bonus points keep the Brumbies top of their pool but two wins from five is not the sort of stuff which generates confidence and in a true points ladder would leave them outside the top eight.
The Waratahs are below that but it could have been much worse as they trailed the Rebels by 19 points in the second half with all the artillery aimed at coach Daryl Gibson and his team. They looked incapable of turning round a run of three defeats until they sneaked home against a tired side.
That has given the Tahs a week's respite and allowed Gibson to suggest it was a victory to build on but the weapons are still primed on the Waratahs and their form will not cut it for their next two matches against the Crusaders and Hurricanes.
The Reds have to gather what's left of their squad and make the long journey from Buenos Aires to Brisbane where they will play a Hurricanes side who've had a week off. Maybe they will be rusty, struggle in the humidity in Brisbane or lose a number of players to the sinbin but even if all three factors coincide, the visitors will be favoured.
An overall lack of bite, direction and discipline is hurting the Reds. Cooper is too erratic to be a constant menace in Test rugby but he is a crucial player with the experience to guide them.
Centre Samu Kerevi is an exception to the mediocre with his direct running finishing moves or getting them across the advantage line. Fullback Karmichael Hunt is also showing enough resolve and skill in a losing team to give national coach Michael Cheika more options when he picks his Wallaby squad.
Consistency is hurting the pack where they have spells of solid work but then lose their way and cannot sustain enough pressure on opponents while the side's defence is also an issue and sure to be questioned by an inventive Hurricanes side.