Waratahs can kiss goodbye to the play-offs
Russell Barwick, ESPN Sportscenter Australia
April 20, 2009
The Highlanders' Jimmy Cowan reflects on the reckless challenge that saw him sent off against the Blues last weekend © Getty Images
I did tell you no Aussie teams would make the Super 14 play-offs and I reckon I am going to be 100% right. I admit I changed my mind when the Waratahs beat the Blues but - boy oh boy - haven't they hit a try scoring wall since that game?
Three straight losses at home (plus the win in Auckland) and they find themselves outside the top four with a bye this weekend and three games in South Africa on the horizon.
One thing is for certain is that the Tahs' fans can put the footy jersey in the closet for another year because they wont be seeing them live again unless they happen to be flying on Qantas in the next few weeks.
It's a real disappointment to see no Aussie teams in the top four, and when Robbie Deans said recently that the Super 14 form would not necessarily be reflected during the international season he also knew that they would be missing out.
Deans has tried to pump up what's been going on in Super 14 but the fact remains that the teams are not playing well enough and while the Brumbies and Force continue to be around the mark, they are jut a peg or two short of where they need to be.
The Brumbies can make it but the final two games will make or break their season. They face the Blues at home and the Chiefs away - too tough an ask in my opinion.
I refuse to believe the Force can make it because too many things have to got to go their way - including them winning two in a row which rarely - if ever - happens. The Force are good when they are on, but terrible when they are not .
On the plus side, the wins by the Chiefs and Crusaders in South Africa have given a little more life to the top four. The Chiefs are now blazing away at the top and plenty of cow bells will be ringing south of the Bombay Hills as the Waikato folks rejoice as to what might be ahead. The Chiefs' best result since the competition started was a 4th place finish in 2004 - the only time they have made the semi-finals but plenty are saying that will change this year.
I'm not so sure about the tackle by the Highlanders' Jimmy Cowan and whether he should have been sent off on Friday night. The hit wasn't late but it looked bad because he got Jimmy Gopperth with a great shot. But the over protection of kickers nowadays means that even a slight knock will result in a penalty. The red card was way over the top but it was dished out by Stuart Dickinson who appears way over the top in everything he does so no real surprise there.
And the news coming through over the weekend is that former rugby league half-back Craig Gower is chasing a spot in the Barbarians game comes as no great surprise. In fact, I asked John O'Neill that very question when he announced Sonny Bill Williams was playing - he denied it of course, but let's save everyone the hassle and pick our own Barbarians team to play the Wallabies and try and generate as much false publicity as possible.
I'm a few players short so feel free to send in your two bobs' worth:
Fullback: Clinton Shifcofske
Coach: Well take your pick - Eddie Jones, Matt Williams, Ewen McKenzie.
Now if John O'Neill really wanted some publicity, throw that team up against the Wallabies and watch the crowd flock to watch!
Russell Barwick is a presenter for ESPN Sportscenter in Australia