'Pick me Dave Rennie': The five players whose stocks rose during the Super Rugby AU final

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

The Super Rugby AU final was not only a spectacle, it allowed the Wallabies' selectors a chance to see who stands up to the pressure.

Without a shadow of doubt, the Brumbies handled the pressure better and it was that composed display that saw them beat the Queensland Reds 28-23.

As Rod Kafer wrote last week, the Brumbies had been preparing for this match all season having made seven of the past eight finals years. The Reds on the other hand were overzealous and that was shown in their terrible discipline where they were often early to the tackle and their dodgy lineout.

Of Dave Rennie's 44-man Wallabies squad, 22 were on display in the Super Rugby AU final with the Brumbies having 13 involved and the Reds nine.

So whose stocks rose throughout the game?

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Noah Lolesio - Brumbies

This was the game that Lolesio said to Rennie, "I'm your man".

We know what Matt To'omua and James O'Connor can offer in the short-term. They would both be serviceable playmakers, solid and dependable and they would give the Wallabies experience ahead of two Bledisloe Tests where they have a short-term to prepare, made shorter by a few days of quarantine in New Zealand.

But both have question marks over whether they're genuine playmakers.

Lolesio is an out-and-out fly-half.

He has genuine pace and an ability to beat defenders through his neat footwork. 

He also showed that he has the required composure to succeed and direct his team around the park.

Post-game Dan McKellar said that "age goes out the window" with regards to Lolesio. It was an interesting comment given that only a month ago the Brumbies coach said that rookies needed to be eased into the Test cauldron and not thrown to the wolves.

One thing is for sure though, Lolesio isn't short of confidence. 

He dances his way to the line and his quick thinking to bang over a drop goal - the second time the 20-year-old has done so in his debut season - was perfectly summed up.


Fraser McReight - Reds

Michael Hooper remains the favourite to wear the No.7 jersey and captain the Wallabies.

But McReight is closing the gap, and quickly too.

The Junior Wallabies skipper was probably the Reds' best in their five-point defeat.

Everything the Reds did well McReight was right in the thick of it.

After a frustrating start to the final where McReight gave away a penalty and couldn't hang on to a sublime offload from Filipo Daugunu, the No.7 settled into the game splendidly.

He made the most run metres for the Reds (71), made a linebreak and made 12 tackles.

But it was more than those stats. He was everywhere and was one of the few that showed the required energy and hunger out on the field.

That was most evidently shown in the 64th minute when McReight burst onto a Daugunu offload and broke away down field before passing to Taniela Tupou. Tupou eventually took the tackle because he had no-one else within cooee of him, but it was McReight who was first to the breakdown and recieved the ball at acting halfback.


Pete Samu - Brumbies

The balance of the back-row shapes as one of the many interesting calls Rennie will have to make, particularly given the Wallabies won't be able to call on one of the many towering locks Australia has overseas.

If you had Rory Arnold available for the Bledisloe Cup, it would give you some much needed height at the lineout and muscle around the park.

Rennie won't have that luxury until The Rugby Championship.

The thinking around who wears the No.6 jersey could influence the thinking at No.8, but Samu shapes as the favourite.

While Harry Wilson straights the line and continually gives you metres, he is still developing as a player.

Samu played well against the Reds and was influential on both sides of the ball.

He is very good at the lineout and is a winner at Super Rugby, having won the 2017 and 2018 championships with the Crusaders before starting at No.8 for the Brumbies in 2020.

Hunter Paiami - Reds

With Jordan Petaia facing more injury questions, Paisami is someone who could be the genuine bolter for the Wallabies.

This is a man who has physicality written all over him.

Paisami was excellent against the Brumbies and threw himself at everything.

He runs fabulous lines and his punch with ball-in-hand is something few Australians have at their disposal.

His defence remains a little suspect and it's his biggest work-on.

Petaia is the obvious first-choice for the Wallabies at No.13, but if he's not fit than Paisami could be picked.

 

Joe Powell - Brumbies

It remains highly unlikely that Powell will be in the Wallabies' 23, but he's now put himself in the conversation.

Powell is somewhat of a jack of all trades type player.

But you can't question the positive influence he has on the Brumbies and the combination he has with Lolesio.

If Lolesio is picked at No.10, Powell would certainly come closer to the thinking.

The other factor with Powell is that he has wins over New Zealand opposition.

He was at No.9 when the Brumbies beat the Chiefs earlier in the year and even if you cast your mind back a couple of years ago, he scored a cracking try against the Hurricanes in 2017.