The Brumbies and Waratahs are neck and neck in the race for top spot in the Super Rugby Australian Conference. After Round 15 the two sides are inseparable with both locked on 39 points with the Brumbies edging in front by virtue of a solitary victory more than their opponents. Total number of wins is now the deciding factor over points difference. Prior to the return of Super Rugby there was some discussion on which side faced the toughest task to reach the Finals. Round 15 gave the opportunity for all the sides to truly weigh up the task at hand.
Super Rugby Australian Conference Predictions
Undoubtedly the New Zealand Conference has been the strongest of all four Conferences this season. Which with all due respect was very much to be expected. The level of rugby witnessed from the five Kiwi franchises as simply been a level above the rest. Round 16 will prove a huge testing ground for the ambitions of both the Brumbies and Waratahs.
Friday 8th July- Blues vs Brumbies
The Blues can feel very much aggrieved at the Conference system as they sit bottom of theirs despite a respectable six wins. Added to that the fact that the New Zealand sides must play each other twice. Their latest match up against the Hurricanes in Wellington highlighted the strength of running rugby being instilled in the side by Head Coach Tana Umaga. A ten point loss appeared harsh on a side that was continually in the match. The Brumbies must face up to this threat in the intimidating arena of Eden Park if they are to retain the Qualification top spot. In order to nullify this threat the Brumbies pack will have to be far more dominate than they were against the Reds. International break rustiness overcame them in the first half in Round 15, something that cannot be repeated if they are to have any hope of beating the Blues.
Prediction: Blues by three points
Saturday 9th July- Waratahs vs Hurricanes
The Tah’s welcome the Hurricanes to Sydney in a must win match for them to keep their hopes of finals footy alive. A match that is just as vital for the ‘Canes as they sit only two points off the top the New Zealand Conference. Recent meetings between these two sides have all been close fought affairs, which saw the Waratahs come out on top most recently in Wellington in 2015 by five points. A dismantling of the Sunwolves was to be expected in Round 15 and the duly collected bonus point drew them level with the Brumbies in the standings. They must now overcome a far greater test in the form of a Hurricanes line up led by Beauden Barrett. Everything this man currently touches turns to pure rugby gold. A perfect night of the tee and continual signs of his potency against the Blues will have the Waratahs particularly worried.
Prediction: Hurricanes by ten points
Friday 15th July- Blues vs Waratahs
The Blues will clearly have a massive say in the final standings of the Australian Conference. Only fellow Kiwi sides have beaten them at home this season in the Crusaders and the Hurricanes. Meaning the Waratahs face a mammoth task to have any hope of claiming the Australian playoffs spot. Predicted results here would leave the result unknown until this final Round of matches in the competition. Sadly for ‘Tahs fans it is likely that anything gained from this match here would likely be too little too late as the dropped bonus point in Round 16 will undeniably deny them any chance. Add to that the fact that they haven’t beaten the Blues in Auckland since 2009 and the task just gets ever more difficult.
Prediction: Blues by seven points
Saturday 16th July- Brumbies vs Force
By this stage of the competition the Brumbies will have the luxury of knowing exactly what they need from this match. A home fixture against the Western Force will be viewed by many as an extremely winnable match. The Brumbies have dominated this fixture in the past and will expect a repeat of their 31-14 victory in Perth in Round Three of this year’s competition. With nothing but pride to play for the Force are unlikely to be the opponents that stop the Brumbies from edging their way into the finals.
Prediction: Brumbies by 15 points
Overall Conference Result: Brumbies edge the Waratahs on the ladder to claim to top spot in the Australian Conference.
Ultimately the side that progresses from the Australian Conference will the one who can claim anything from a very tough Round 16. Both sides face mammoth tasks against in form New Zealand sides who continue to look like they will dominate Super Rugby 2016. Regardless of whether it is the Waratahs or the Brumbies who manage to make the finals, neither side appears that they could truly test the top sides in the competition. Knockout rugby, however, can always spring a few surprises.