Wallabies hopefuls dreams to be made or lost by Super Rugby finals success, analysis, Queensland Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies


After five months of hobbling along in Super Rugby, World Cup hopes can be made and dashed by this weekend’s quarter-finals.

Ever since Eddie Jones was appointed as Wallabies coach on January 16, the master coach has been adamant about one thing: you need to perform against New Zealand opposition.

“The games against the Crusaders and whoever the next strongest New Zealand side is, they are the important selection games because that’s where you see the level of the players. And, of course, the local derbies,” Jones said at Australia’s Super Rugby launch.

Since then, Australia’s Super Rugby sides have won just five of 26 matches against their trans-Tasman opponents. Three of those matches have been at home against the Highlanders, who were the only New Zealand side to miss the finals.

How Australia’s Super Rugby sides go in this weekend’s quarter-finals could well shape the Wallabies’ squad. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

In anyone’s books, they are dreadful numbers which further showcase the discrepancy between the two nations.

The question is why? Why can’t Australian opposition front up against their New Zealand opponents?

Injuries? Depth? Talent? Skills crumbling under pressure? Wicked bounces of the ball?

They’re all excuses. Excuses for inadequacy.

Jones will have none of it when he announces his 33-man Wallabies over the coming weeks.

Jones had planned on naming his squad, which will also include a few players on the injury comeback, on June 25 but could name it as soon as the last Australian side is bounced out of the knockout stages.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones wants winners in his World Cup team. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

That could come as soon as Saturday night with Australia’s best hope, the Brumbies, facing an almighty task against the Hurricanes after their slide down to the Super Rugby standings over the final month, particularly with Allan Alaalatoa still a week away from returning and try-scorer Corey Toole also ruled out.

World Cup dreams are on the line this weekend. A starring role could be the difference between agony and ecstasy.

The Reds are likely in for a long afternoon against the All Blacks-laden Chiefs, with several Test stars back to ensure they don’t slip up again against Brad Thorn’s side.

But for players like Matt Faessler, who has been the Reds’ best tight-five forward in 2023, and fellow forwards Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson, it’s time to roll up their sleeves and go again.

Backs Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Suliasi Vunivalu and Jock Campbell must also step up to stand a chance.

For McDermott, the livewire halfback whose feet are his strength, he’s got to the play the game of his life with another nippy No.9, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa looming as a genuine World Cup bolter.

Tate McDermott’s World Cup dreams can be made and lost against the Chiefs on Saturday. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The Waratahs have been all but written off, with history and injuries pointing to a one-way result.

Yet, after being embarrassed at home against Moana Pasifika, the Waratahs will be hoping to enjoy a bounce back against a Blues pack, which is the weakest tight-five in New Zealand.

For the second-row combination of Ned Hanigan and Jed Holloway, it’s an opportunity to show they can pack a punch.

Lachie Swinton has the biggest opportunity to make a statement, while Langi Gleeson has to show he’s as effective in defence as he is breaking a line with ball-in-hand.

Lachlan Swinton has plenty of ground to make up to be in contention for the Wallabies. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Defence and taking their opportunity will be the Waratahs’ most important thing too, with several players on the fringes of the Wallabies squad.

As for the Brumbies, Tom Wright will be eager to show his electric game can hold up at the back in a knockout match when the stakes are higher and making the right decision at fullback is imperative.

Tom Hooper can come from the clouds if he fronts up off the bench in the second-half, too.

Jones wants winners in his squad and if there’s no one who can claim that by midnight on Saturday, he wants players with a winning attitude and a desire to work their backside off both on and off the training pitch.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones at his first Wallabies training camp at Sanctuary Cove on April 18, 2023 in Gold Coast. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The stakes are high this weekend.

Jones’ cut-throat manner is about to be seen.

He doesn’t care how his players win, he just wants winners to join his “smash and grab” World Cup campaign.

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