Season Snapshot: Can the Brumbies unleash their speed in 2019?

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There are just two days to go until Super Rugby 2019 kicks off and it's going to be a critical one for the Aussie sides.

RUGBY.com.au has run their eyes over each of the Australian teams in the competition. Today, we're taking a look at the Brumbies

SQUAD

Allan Alaalatoa, Vunipola Fifita, Les Makin, Tom Ross, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Folau Faingaa, Josh Mann-Rea, Connal McInerney, Rory Arnold (signed with Toulouse for 2019-20 and beyond), Sam Carter, Murray Douglas, Blake Enever, Darcy Swain, Tom Cusack, Lochie McCaffrey, David Pocock, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini, Ben Hyne, Ryan Lonergan, Matt Lucas, Joe Powell, Wharenui Hawera, Bayley Kuenzle, Christian Lealiifano, Len Ikitau, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Tevita Kuridrani, Noah Lolesio, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Andy Muirhead, Chance Peni, Toni Pulu, Henry Speight, Lausii Taliauli, Tom Banks, Mack Hansen

*Signed for 2020: Reesjan Pasitoa

Boom recruits

James Slipper

The Brumbies offered James Slipper a new home after his exile from the Reds and the prop is paying back that faith already. Slipper has shaken off a rib knock to start in the Brumbies' season opener against the Rebels, already giving the ACT franchise the flexibility to rotate their three Test props in Slipper, Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa. 

Toni Pulu

Tom Banks provided most of the X factor for the  Brumbies in 2018 but Toni Pulu will give him plenty of competition for spots in highlights reels this year. The former Chiefs back has already been on the Wallabies radar, invited to January's camp, and his pace will be a valuable asset for the Brumbies this year.

Burning questions

Can the Brumbies pick up where they left off last season? The Brumbies struggled to adapt to a more open style of play last year but clicked towards the end of the season. Coach Dan McKellar believes the side are "more aligned" and ready to roll with the adventure from round one, but also rested on forward strength in the trials. What will we see against the Rebels?

Will Rob Valetini end his run of bad luck? Valetini was so highly-rated he was signed by the Brumbies as a schoolboy, and was eyed off by Michael Cheika as a potential Wallabies backrower. A spate of injuries over the last three years has hindered his Super Rugby game time but if he can stay fit, watch out in 2019.

Has Chance Peni rectified his tackling technique? Four suspensions in 13 months for dangerous tackles should be enough to send a serious message to any player that they need to change their technique. Peni missed almost three months of rugby after back-to-back suspensions last year and the winger will have to show he's learned his lesson to avoid another ban in 2019.

Will an overseas stint re-energise Henry Speight? Winger Henry Speight has shown patches of brilliance in the past two seasons but the speedster has been out of favour when it comes to Wallabies selection since the 2017 Spring Tour. Speight spent the summer in Ireland with Ulster and just what he learned from that time away will be telling.

Will Pocock be protected? Opponents targeted David Pocock heavily in 2018 and coach Dan McKellar has been vocal about the need to protect flankers like his star in the breakdown. Pocock missed two Tests with neck issues last year and neither the Brumbies nor Wallabies will want to see him forced onto the sidelines in a Rugby World Cup year.

The blue print

Strengths

Pack

The Brumbies have Wallabies littered across their pack and even as they move to a more expansive approach, it will be the work of their forwards that will underpin any success they have. They monstered the Waratahs in their final trial and that was without Test trio Allan Alaalatoa, Scott Sio and David Pocock. Expect their mauling to remain a Brumbies trademark.

Wings can fly

Just one look at the Brumbies' final performances of 2018 would tell any spectator that they've got some pace to burn on the edges. Tom Banks' late Super Rugby form was good enough to earn him a Wallabies squad spot and their wing stocks run as deep as any. Speight, Pulu, Peni, Lausi Taliauli and Andy Muirhead have all had some impressive outings on the Super Rugby stage and that competition can only be a good thing.

The weak link

Centres of attention

Boast one of the best in the business in Tevita Kuridrani but the Brumbies other options in the midfield don't have the same polish or depth as other spots. Irae Simone has been given the first shot at no.12 after being let go by NSW, and rookies Tom Wright, Len Ikitau and Noah Lolesio are the other contenders.

What they need to win Super Rugby 


A firing backline

If they can turn David Pocock turnovers into ball for Banks, Pulu and Speight flying away in space, the Brumbies will transform from a grind-out team to one that can truly compete with anyone in the Super Rugby competition.

Go to the maul

As much as their backline as potential to grow, the Brumbies can't neglect the platform that has made them a consistent competitor in Super Rugby. Expect plenty of kicking to the corner this year.

The key stats

Goal kicking percentage

The Brumbies had the lowest goal kicking accuracy of any Super Rugby team last year and it cost them valuable points at times. It's an easily rectified issue and something that could make all the difference in tight games this season.

Defenders beaten

The Brumbies beat the fewest defenders of any team in 2018 and while line breaks and open space aren't everything, moving up the list would be a reflection of a changing mindset within the team when it comes to scoring points.

2019 Predictions

Most-carded player

Folau Faingaa

Leading tryscorer

Tom Banks

The headline you won’t see

"Pocock unveils his new MAGA hat at Young Libs convention"

2019 MVP

Tevita Kuridrani

If the Brumbies were a Netflix show, they'd be ....

House of Cards. The never-ending struggle for dominance and power in the political capital, against foreign and domestic enemies.