ANALYSIS: Strengths and work-ons for the Aussie teams bound for the Super Rugby finals


The gap between the New Zealand and Australian Super sides has shrunk if only a little in 2024, but the increased jeopardy in this year’s Super Rugby Pacific has made for a much more entertaining competition.

The ACT Brumbies, Queensland Reds and for the first time the Melbourne Rebels, are all finals bound with a game to spare. The Force could mathematically sneak in too, but their chances look slim.

Although it is mainly the Reds and the Brumbies who are responsible for the closing of the gap, all three of the locked in teams have brought something unique to the competition which has made the viewing all the more enjoyable.

Despite the final round of the regular season is still to be played, the coaches must have an eye and some of their minds on what the finals series has in store.

ACT Brumbies

The Brumbies are on par with the top two sides, the Blues and Hurricanes on 11 wins each.

Where the gap is still evident, is the Kiwis’ ability to maintain a high standard throughout the season, resulting in points differentials on +241 and +172 respectively.

The men from the capital sit on +94, a stark contrast to the Kiwi teams.

Although the differentials are not a definitive measurement of inter-team strength, it speaks to consistency, mindset, depth and the dominance over their opponents.

This points gap is consistent with all three Aussie teams.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

While the Brums haven’t been consistently at their best, they have been building for the most part and have found two distinctive strengths in 2024.


Their ability to secure points after entering their opponents’ 22m and their ability to score off turnover ball.

They’re fourth in the competition for tries from turnovers and deadly off quick taps.

Scoring the majority of their points off fast ball as opposed to set piece indicates a clear shift in the Brumbies mindset and gameplan.

X-factor players like Corey Toole and Tom Wright have had a big hand in this development, being able to execute in the loose.

While the men out wide razzle-dazzle, the forwards are building in their cleans and carries, especially in the attacking 22m.

Although they’ve built a deadlier attack, in a very un-Brumby fashion it’s defence which has let them down.


Tackling at an average of 81.9 per cent will not be good enough to win a title, especially against trans-Tasman rivals.

The Brumbies are a rush defence side so tackle percentage doesn’t necessarily correlate with the strength of defence, however, the Brums are conceding too many points per game.

Aside from the two 46-point blow-outs against the Chiefs and Blues, the Brumbies generally bleed around 20 points per game regardless of who or where they play.

In contrast the Blues have regularly been able to keep teams to less than 15 points per game, with almost a third of games under 10 points per game.

The Brumbies’ defence is a big reason pundits across the ditch regularly say ‘the Brumbies are playing well but they’re not genuine title contenders.’

They are winning games but are rarely putting the foot on the throat like the top Kiwi teams, which has meant once again they do not have a secured semi-final in the bag, which may cost them.

Whether it’s better scramble defence, squarer tackles or more connection in their line speed, improvement in one or each of these areas must occur for the Brumbies to go from semi-final regulars to final contenders.

A final note, the scrum is a concern, being able to rely on the scrum matters in finals footy.

Blake Schoupp returns to the fold as James Slipper looks set for a couple weeks on the sideline due to a high calf injury.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Overall, the Brumbies are in a better position in 2024 than in ‘23, but the Brumbies can’t say they are building anymore, Stephen Larkham must show it’s all been for something, and that it’s all on show against the Force in Perth on Saturday night.

Queensland Reds

The Reds have come alive under Les Kiss, the former rugby league player turned rugby coach who has been able to imbue the side with efficiency, structure, and self-confidence.

The work of forwards coach Zane Hilton and assistant coach Jonathan Fisher has seen the ruck and the lineout weaponised, giving the team a more rounded profile and gameplan.


The work of the coaching staff has turned the Reds’ ruck speed into the second fastest of the competition.

The lightning quick ball has taken their attack from two to three dimensional, from predictable and lateral to dynamic and difficult to defend.

The lethality of their attack has also come from Kiss’ focus on support play and simple running lines.

Rarely are complicated set moves seen, rather everyone in the team knows their job.

In a very Ireland-rugby way, it’s the layers and waves of players within the attack which mean eventually someone finds themselves in the clear, heading for the try line.

While their attack has come on leaps and bounds, the doggedness of their defence which was instilled by previous head coach Brad Thorn has remained and has been complemented by a little fine tuning by Kiss’ coaching team.

Defence has become a real point of difference for the Queenslanders in recent years and it shows by the Reds having missed the second least tackles per game in the comp, only just behind ladder leaders the Blues.

The toughness on either side of the ball has them in good stead to play any team, anywhere, and will be an asset in their pre-determined quarter final against the Chiefs.

The Reds must maintain their ruck speed if they want to compete against the Chiefs on Kiwi soil.


While the Reds are seemingly the most complete Australian side, the youth and inexperience of their roster has been noted in 2023.

Surprise losses against the Western Force and Moana Pasifika, as well as losses at the death to the Blues and Hurricanes, show game management is still very much where they must grow as a side.

The Brumbies have become known for eking-out wins when not on song, and although the Reds by most figures are the more balanced side, finals rugby is as much about mental fortitude as it is physical dominance.

When push comes to shove the best teams stay composed and make the right calls. If the Reds can keep their cool then there is no reason why they couldn’t go all the way to the final.

Melbourne Rebels

At the start of the year Rebels coach Kevin Foote challenged the group to become the best Rebels team in history, and lo and behold, despite all the outside noise, despite the men’s side being disbanded, they’ve secured a finals spot and the last Rebels can be dubbed the best Rebels team of them all.

No one can take that away from them.

Coach Kevin Foote of the Rebels. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

What’s stood out about the Rebels in 2024 is the depth and strength of their roster.

General Manager Nick Stiles has come down from Queensland Rugby and brought with him key players Taniela Tupou and Filipo Daugunu.

Similarly, his Queensland connection with Lukhan Salakai-Loto couldn’t have hurt.

Each of these players have had a material impact on the trajectory of the Rebels.

However, the Rebels franchise has never lacked super stars, it’s the cohesion of a well-rounded squad which has escaped them, and Foote and his team have managed the team beautifully this season.


The Rebels posses so much raw power and have a giant pack that will be able to assert themselves against whoever they meet in the finals, especially at the scrum and when carrying into contact.

This physical dominance has allowed them to stay in games they previously would’ve fallen away in, and they’ve seen a lift in their ability to convert pressure into points.

As finals loom, Foote will want to see the efficiency when entering the 22m to lift.

They have had little trouble in getting to the A-zone but have fluffed their lines repeatedly once there, keeping the play direct and ‘boring’ should allow the Rebels to give the finals a real shake.

Their attacking dominance and flair, however, has only been soured by their defensive fragility in transition situations.


Poor organisation on turnover ball has been a consistent issue for the Rebels in recent years, and if they want to make a fist of the finals, they will have to remedy this.

Tackling at 84 per cent is good, but not great, and where they differ from a team like the Brumbies, is they scramble worse in defence.

Any missed tackles or linebreaks hurts the Melbourne side considerably more than their Australian brothers.

This is evidenced by the fact they concede the second most points from turnover ball in the comp.

Previous columns on the Rebels have outlined in detail how counter-rucking could be an option to mitigate risks from subsequent rucks.

But it’s critical the Rebels coaching staff come up with strategies to make that initial tackle to get subsequent faces a top priority.

Once the initial ruck is formed their tendency to leak points decreases considerably.

While their defence is the biggest work on, their attack has also been hampered by a faltering lineout.

The throwing hasn’t been up-to-scratch and losing the experienced Salakai-Loto to a foot injury has only exacerbated this, with the younger members of the squad struggling to make the lineout a safe bet.

This has cost them strategically because goal kicking has been sub-par as well.

The combination of being insecure when opting for a lineout as well as when pointing to the goal posts has heavily dampened the Rebels’ threat level.

Although a return of LSL in time for the finals is a possibility, newly appointed Wallabies lineout coach Geoff Parling must simplify the lineout protocols for the youngsters over the next two weeks.

Whether the Rebels finish 6th, 7th, or 8th, their opponents will be able to expose their transition defence fragility and lineout disorganisation, so remedying just one of these can a go a ways to improve their finals aspirations.

Western Force

The Force are not part of this piece at greater length because of the uncertainty surrounding their finals qualification.

That being said, the Force have fielded one of their biggest packs on Saturday night against the Brumbies in a bid to keep their finals chances in their own hands.

Ben Donaldson has suffered a leg injury and will be replaced by Max Burey who makes a return to the no.10 jersey.

All eyes will be on the pack battle as well as Burey’s ability to direct his side around the park.

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