Super Rugby Trans Tasman kicked off on Friday night, with the Highlanders recently hosting AU Super Rugby champions the Queensland Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
With the various individual competitions that have taken place in recent months in both New Zealand and Australia (with varying success), for my part, I was worried about the type of performances that would be presented when teams from both nations would meet.
Super Rugby New Zealand produced sensational performances, with the “razzle dazzle” presented week after week. Unsurprisingly, the Crusaders won the title after beating the Chiefs 24-13 in the final. It is important to note that each week has seen high quality, hotly contested matches between New Zealand’s top talent.
Super Rugby AU on the other hand, it was for me a decidedly flat competition. In fact, it wasn’t until the final that we really saw the tournament come to life. James O’Connor saw the Reds come from behind to triumph over the Brumbies.
However, the matches didn’t really inspire fans for the rest of the tournament. With that in mind, I was hoping Super Rugby Trans Tasman wouldn’t be a demolition of the Australian teams.
When you look at the results at face value, it was not a good start for the Australian teams. 5 games, 0 wins – not the best advertisement for a competitive Trans Tasman competition.
- Highlanders (40) vs red (19)
- Waratahs (48) against hurricanes (64)
- Crusaders (31) vs Brumbies (29)
- Rebels (3) vs. Blues (50)
- Force (19) vs.Chiefs (20)
However, when we dig deeper into the results, the future of this tournament looks much brighter. Aside from the whitewash the Melbourne rebels received at the hands of the Auckland Blues, we have seen 4 scary games that any veteran of past Super Rugby tournaments would have been proud to witness.
The Force and the Brumbies both got kicks on goal in the last few games of the game to win and draw. Unfortunately, neither Domingo Miotti nor Noah Lolesio were able to land their kick between the uprights. Despite this, both teams can gain a lot from these games, especially considering they were up against both runner-up and Super Rugby winner Aotearoa. The heart they have shown to play until the final whistle will be incredibly encouraging for their coaching teams ahead of a difficult schedule of matches ahead.
Elsewhere, we saw an absolute testing festival between the Waratahs and Hurricanes at SCG, which ultimately saw the Hurricanes triumph by 64 points to 48. Former All Black superstar Julia Savea recorded a double testing. However, an astonishing length of the field score in the latter part of the game – ultimately ended by Australia international full-back Jack Maddocks – highlighted a lot of fights in Australian teams this year.
The decline of Australian franchise rugby had been a real cause for concern for some time. Going back to the last full Super Rugby competition in 2019, the performance of the Australian teams was simply appalling. Excluding the Brumbies, the other three Australian teams (the Rebels, Waratahs and Reds) finished 11th, 12th and 14th respectively out of a total of 15 teams. All three teams recorded negative point differences at the end of the tournament, with the Waratahs not recording any tryout bonus points while the Reds only managed one.
This lack of competitiveness was frustrating for many, who were used to Super Rugby providing highlights in all three countries – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. While not a winning start for any of the Australian teams this time around, the future of Super Rugby Trans Tasman certainly looks bright, and we can surely hope for some spectacular, high-octane finishes. over the next few weeks.
What do you think of the opening week of Super Rugby Trans Tasman? Please comment below with your thoughts.