Australia’s leading Super Rugby teams face the challenge of having to cover significant player losses, after their nation missed out on a semi-finalist for the first time in four years.
The country’s sole quarter-finalist, Australian Conference winner the Brumbies, lost 15-9 at home to defending champions the Highlanders on Friday.
The Brumbies were left fuming over a contentions no-try ruling late in the game when bench winger Lausii Taliauli appeared to crash over the line.
However, the Highlanders scored the only two legitimate tries of the game and will be one of three New Zealand teams in next week’s semi-finals.
In Australia, the attention will turn to the Rugby Championship after a fruitless Super Rugby campaign, with no immediate prospect of a grand resurgence next year.
The Brumbies and NSW Waratahs, the two leading Australian sides of recent years will each lose a cluster of established Wallabies.
The Waratahs will be without at least eight starters from their 2014 final win following the retirement of prop Benn Robinson and the departures overseas of fellow forwards Dave Dennis and Wycliff Palu and back Kurtley Beale.
Among those leaving the Brumbies are captain and hooker Stephen Moore, inside back Matt Toomua, winger Joe Tomane and back-rower David Pocock, who is taking a one-year sabbatical.
Pocock, Tomane and Toomua will all play overseas, while Wallabies captain Moore will head back to Queensland.
Moore and back-rower Scott Fardy remained bullish about the Brumbies future.
“It all comes down to the quality of the program and the culture and I’m confident that there’s players who will be here who will be able to carry that forward and make it a better place,” Moore said.
Fardy was similarly optimistic.
“I’m confident with the guys we’ve got here and some of the young guys coming through we can do the job,” Fardy said.
Queensland could potentially be a big improver with the additions of Moore and veteran back-rower George Smith and the potential return of playmaker Quade Cooper.
Melbourne, who scored a franchise equal best seven wins this season, haven’t given up hope of adding Cooper to their roster.
The only way is up for last-placed Australian Conference side Western Force, who won just two games and have to appoint a new coach after the late season sacking of Michael Foley.