Rollo Manning has been a rugby tragic all his life since being named after a Wallaby winger and educated at a private boarding school in Sydney, Australia. Manning has been working in publicity and public relations for 40 years, and during that time has commented on the "game they play in heaven" through radio, magazines and newspaper coverage.
As a correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he has broadcast in magazine style programs and live coverage of games. He is currently a regular contributor on ABC Radio in his hometown of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Manning has been contributing to eSports for six years and relishes the opportunity to express his views on the first of the two rugbies. He is currently completing work on a study of the inter play between rugby league and rugby union over the past 100 years, when league was formed as the professional arm of an otherwise purely amateur game.
Since 1995, both have become professional and the drift of players is going back from league to union. Where will it end? That is the question Manning is now asking himself.
The first round of the Super 15 Rugby competition in the Southern Hemisphere has produced a set of results that defied the experts in the lead up to the opening round last weekend.
The favourites for the tourney – the Pretoria based Bulls – just scraped home against the lowly rated Joh’burg Lions. The second favourite, the Crusaders, went down to seventh ranked (Auckland) Blues, while the (NSW) Sydney based Waratahs gave a thrashing to newcomers, the Melbourne Rebels. The Rebels probably justified their place at the bottom of the expected ladder outcome after the next 15 weeks of competition play.
The Queensland Reds failed to come up to expectations and did not deserve the one-point margin win against a rejuvenated Perth based Western Force.
The third Aussie team, the Canberra based Brumbies, showed flair in the first quarter that was reminiscent of their “golden” days in the mid-stages of the 16 year old tournament. Alas, they failed to capitalize and although going on to win against the Waikato-based Chiefs from New Zealand, they must put a team away when they are up 18 to 3 at half time.
It is important in this revamped competition, divided into three National conferences each of five teams across South Africa, New Zeeland and Australia, that there are two dominant teams in each conference.
In South Africa, it is looking like the Bulls and either the Sharks or the Stormers. New Zealand has the Crusaders and the Blues looking good, while the Hurricanes went down badly to the Highlanders who could turn out to be a “bolter.” Australia has undoubtedly the Waratahs with the Reds or the Brumbies
The finals will be fought out by six teams comprising the three top teams at the head of the league ladder in each of the three conferences, followed by the next best three teams on an overall league ladder. Each conference is then assured at least one team in the finals. However, it is the make up of the next three teams that makes early wins essential and with bonus points all the more important.
Should the teams in any one conference share the wins and losses through their home and away matches (twice play each other), they will dilute the strength of a second-placed team that could ultimately miss out in favour of a strong second or third place getter from the other two conferences.
At this very early stage, and without seeing the Stormers, who had a bye in the first round, my six will be Waratahs, Bulls, Blues, Stormers, Brumbies, and Crusaders.
Apart from the home and away local derbies, each team plays four teams in each of the other conferences.
The referees are said to have been instructed to get tough with the scrummaging resets, offside in rucks, tackler not rolling away and getting to feet, entering ruck from the side and offside from set play. This should speed up the play – no one wants to see 10 minutes taken up with scrums and incessant kicking away possession. Let’s hope the teams go out in a running frame of mind with ball in hand.
In this first round, only the Waratahs vs. Rebels game produced some good continuous phases of play, with there being six occasions when it went to 14-plus phases (4 for the Tahs and two for the Rebels).
Enjoy the play and watch it on Fox Sports TV.