We are three rounds into the competition, which means we’ve hit the time of the season where questions are asked of everyone and everything. Nothing is immune to scrutiny. Laws, referees, coaches, players, selections, concussion protocols, scrum engagements and the video referee all come under the spotlight.
The reality, though, is that every year the first month brings a calibration of all that is new and everyone is trying to decide if things are working better.
This is often subjective, but in 15 games there have been six bonus points for scoring four-plus tries and five losing bonus points for coming within seven points. This would suggest there may be two levels of team this year, although it’s too early to pass judgment, especially when teams at this stage are primarily focused on getting their defence sorted.
There is always a team that surprises and the effort of the Blues against the Crusaders at the weekend was outstanding.
On the flip-side, who would have thought that two of the season’s fancied teams – the Stormers and Hurricanes – would open with two straight losses. In our backyard, the Reds also began their season with a poor result against the Brumbies before responding with back-to-back wins at Suncorp Stadium against the Waratahs and Hurricanes. Pleasingly, this has taken our record at the venue to 23 wins from our past 26 matches.
What the results highlight is that not much credit gets carried over from the season before.
Everyone starts on a level playing field and you have to earn everything you get. From a Reds perspective, accumulating wins at this time of the year is especially important for us while several of our leaders, including Wallabies captains James Horwill and Will Genia, remain injured. The absence of key players is part of any season’s challenge, so to remain on the right side of the ledger is crucial before they return.
During these opening rounds we’ve had six players from our Super Rugby final winning-team on the sideline through injury, which has been frustrating but has also allowed us to see some of our prospects.
Genia, Horwill, Anthony Faingaa, Beau Robinson, Ben Daley and Radike Samo have all been crucial for us and know what winning a competition is like. Samo is back but the rest will return gradually and bring with them experience and enthusiasm.
The teams that can cover injuries with depth are the ones who can prevail and those that can bring experience from the bench will be able to endure the test of time that Super Rugby requires. To be successful you need a high-quality bench.
There are lots of questions and the answers won’t be known until the last round on July 13. But that’s the best part about Super Rugby, we don’t have all the answers here and now.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.