Five things we learnt from Super Rugby

Nanjing Night Net

 The Brumbies aren’t ready to win this competition. Beating a poor Waratahs outfit is one thing, but winning three games on the trot in the finals series – two of which would probably involve trips to New Zealand or South Africa – is a feat beyond better sides than Jake White’s team. Still, they are further advanced at this stage of his tenure than perhaps even the coach imagined. Throw in a David Pocock next year, if he signs, a fully recovered Christian Lealifaano and perhaps another damaging back-rower and the future is plump with possibilities.

2. Quade Cooper made a statement. The Reds’ five-eighth did some nice things on attack – he really has a lovely appreciation of drawing and passing – but his return to the No.10 channel on defence was the more significant development. It clearly doesn’t come easy to him, and he will never be a Jonny Wilkinson, but if he can manufacture a technique than works for him it will take his game to a new level. The Waratahs will target him at Suncorp and they did a decent job of isolating Danny Cipriani earlier in the season. The game might even help Robbie Deans decide if Cooper is ready for Bledisloe.

3. Chiefs v Crusaders didn’t look like a hangover. One optimistic theory opined that the Kiwis would be weary after their World Cup success, but the match in Hamilton suggested the opposite. The collisions were heavy, the cleanouts brutal and the support play outstanding, often from the lesser-known players such as Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Luke Romano. But the most worrying aspect for Wallabies fans – and a contrast to the Australian derbies – was the sheer pace. The Reds, at their 2011 best, still look to be the only Australian side that can match that sort of sustained intensity. As an aside, the threat of Sonny Bill Williams and Aaron Cruden was almost entirely extinguished by Crusaders pressure at the set-piece. Williams is a loss but the old truth remains: forwards win the big games.

4. The Waratahs are not even close. Be suspicious of the argument that a lot of close losses adds to up a team of the verge of a lot of close victories (try that argument with your boss after a week of “almost” doing your job). The Waratahs are as ponderous as they were in round three, when the Highlanders first raised the question marks about their fitness. Passes failed to go to hand, the back-line was again clogged up with tight forwards at first receiver and proven class acts such as Adam Ashley-Cooper, who barely put a foot wrong on Wallabies duty, were caught out defensively. In 2012, they have played like a team with only two gears.

5. Frans Steyn: nice work if you can get him. Picture the grim faces at Reds HQ if Steyn lines up a 60-metre penalty in the last minute or crashes over for a try to send the Sharks into the play-offs at the Reds’ expense. His signing is legitimate – he isn’t eligible for the play-offs and will also play for the Sharks next year – but his late arrival for the final two games of the regular season will raise a few questions if he plays a defining role. The Sharks will present the Brumbies with a significant challenge if they meet in the qualifiers in Canberra – Marcell Coetzee’s classy offload to Bismarck du Plessis at the weekend just one example of their threat.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.