With Liam Gill practising his French, and David Pocock preparing to cover new school books, it feels like Michael Hooper (left) and Sean McMahon could be setting up a nice little rivalry for the Wallabies no.7 in 2017..
The Roar: Round 6 could be something of a moving week in Super Rugby, with all but one game pitting teams in close table proximity against each other.
The 8th-placed Lions host 7th-placed Crusaders. The Blues in 13th host the 12th-placed Jaguares. The 3rd-placed Brumbies host the competition-leading Chiefs. The two cellar-dwellers meet in Port Elizabeth, and the South African derby pits the 11th-placed Bulls against the Cheetahs in 14th. To finish, the Waratahs in 10th host the Rebels in 9th.
It represents an opportunity for all winners to jump ladder positions, and when viewed like this, it does add some further overall intrigue to the round. So here’s this week’s talking points:
1. Michael Hooper vs Sean McMahon – the start of something? 2. What would constitute a moral victory for the Force in Dunedin? 3. Off-field issues versus a lap of the southern hemisphere? 4. 18th versus 17th a potential match of the round? and.. 5. Was there method to the madness of Benn Robinson’s honesty?
The sight of the Sunwolves’ Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo absolutely packed to its 25,000 capacity was a great way of starting the marathon. Image: ABC Grandstand
The Roar: In all, the opening round of Super Rugby was a cracker. Almost six tries per game across the nine matches, and five bonus point wins under the new requirement of needing to win by three tries more than the opposition meant that there really was no shortage of entertainment over the weekend.
Rebels’ fullback Reece Hodge enjoyed a dream debut, against the Western Force in Perth. Image: ABC Grandstand
(For what it’s worth, there were only three four-try bonus points earned and a touch over four tries per game scored on opening weekend last season.)
The big ticket item was Saturday: six straight games kicking off mid-afternoon with the Sunwolves’ historic Super Rugby debut in Tokyo, before heading to Christchurch, Sydney, Perth, the Southern Kings’ return to this level in Port Elizabeth, and finishing in Cape Town. Thirteen glorious hours of rugby.
Rugby News magazine:For the February Super Rugby preview edition of the magazine, I jumped at the opportunity to explore SANZAAR’s bold expansion of the competition into Japan and Argentina, via new teams, the Sunwolves and Los Jaguares.
Click on the February issue cover, to the left, to read my thoughts on how the Super Rugby times are a-changin’; how we got here to 18 teams in the first place, and where on earth we might head next..