Super Rugby fact file: Australian conference
Penpix of the Australian teams playing in this season’s Super Rugby series, which starts on Friday:
BRUMBIES (formerly ACT Brumbies)
Coach: Stephen Larkham
Captain: Stephen Moore
Stadium: Canberra Stadium
Best finish: Champions (2001, 2004)
The Brumbies are perennially among Australia’s leading contenders and reached last year’s semi-finals after finishing second in the Australian conference. With the departures next year of Stephen Moore, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua and, possibly David Pocock, this may be the Canberra-based side’s best chance of winning their third Super Rugby crown. The signing of Argentina scrum-half Tomás Cubelli is planned to offset the loss of Nic White. Pocock and Moore head a strong forward pack, but the emphasis will be on whether they can produce more in attack to push their title claims.
Coach: Michael Foley
Captain: Matt Hodgson
Stadium: nib Stadium, Perth
Best finish: Eighth (2014)
The Force struggled to make an impression last year finishing 15th with just three wins. Coach Michael Foley will be looking to inject some attacking spark after registering a competition-low 245 points last season. The Perth-based outfit have recruited Ben Tapuai, Jonno Lance and veteran South African Peter Grant in the backs, but there is little to give the impression that this season will be any different to recent ones.
Coach: Tony McGahan
Captain: Nic Stirzaker
Stadium: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Best finish: 10th (2015)
The Rebels made big strides last season with seven wins, including a first victory outside of Australia. They will be without their skipper and Wallaby forward Scott Higginbotham, but have gained Wallabies hooker James Hanson and Kiwis Adam Thomson and Culum Retallick. They will complement a strong backrow of Sean McMahon, Jordy Reid and Colby Fainga'a, while the young halves pairing of Nic Stirzaker and Jack Debreczeni will be integral to the Rebels’ chances of pushing on this season.
Coach: Richard Graham
Captain: James Slipper
Stadium: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Best finish: Champions (2011)
The Reds had to change after a disastrous 2015 season where they finished 13th, but under-fire coach Richard Graham faces a tough task without the experience of Wallabies trio Will Genia, Quade Cooper and James Horwill. Big questions will be how Karmichael Hunt will fare in his second season after his drug-tainted debut last year, while the recruitment of Japanese World Cup hero fullback Ayumu Goromaru has generated interest. The Reds, champions five seasons ago, will go into the new season off a low base of expectations.
Coach: Daryl Gibson
Captain: Michael Hooper
Stadium: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Best finish: Champions (2014)
Former All Black Daryl Gibson faces the challenge of continuing the Waratahs’ success following the exit of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. The Tahs have one of the best squads in Super Rugby headed by Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Michael Hooper and Bernard Foley, and have been supplemented this season by the acquisition of wayward All Blacks winger Zac Guildford. But Gibson will have to do without key players in the shape of South African Jacques Potgeiter and Wallaby Adam Ashley-Cooper. The Tahs should be in the mix again, but how far they can go will be the question.