A major Super Rugby Australian blockbuster looms in just round two, with NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson lauding the Brumbies more adventurous style.
Touted before the season as the two leading local franchises, each justified the hype with a convincing opening round win.
The Brumbies ran in seven tries as they blew away last season’s losing grand finalists the Hurricanes 52-10 in Canberra on Friday.
The Waratahs, who like the Brumbies were losing semi-finalists last year, scored four tries in a comfortable 30-10 win over the Reds in Sydney the following night.
In the other Australian derby, Melbourne scored a 25-19 away win over the Western Force in Perth, with Rebels’ winger Reece Hodge notching two tries on debut.
The new expanded 18-team competition provided plenty of excitement and the odd flat spot.
Argentina’s Jaguares made a stirring debut, overcoming a 24-3 deficit and the sin-binning of two men to beat the Cheetahs 34-33 in Bloemfontein, while Japan’s Sunwolves started their Super existence with a respectable 26-13 loss to the Lions in Tokyo.
Elsewhere, there was two close New Zealand derbies and two South African derby blowouts.
The Blues shaded defending champions the HighLanders 33-31 in Auckland and the Chiefs beat the Crusaders 27-21 in Christchurch, while in South Africa, the Sharks thumped the Kings 43-8 in Port Elizabeth and the Stormers thrashed the Bulls 33-9 in Cape Town.
New Waratahs coach Gibson and his captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper were both impressed by the Brumbies, who they will face in Canberra next Friday.
“It looked like they’ve added a few things from the off season, but still very very strong in the forwards and definitely their lineout platform was very good,” Gibson said.
“They are a lot more adventurous with the ball, they are running from areas they probably wouldn’t have run in the last two or three years.
“They are definitely trying to use the ball and be far more positive.”
Hooper, who is poised to directly oppose World Cup teammate David Pocock next week, foreshadowed another intensely physical derby.
“It’s going to be a great hitout, I know from last year they were extremely physical matches and brutal matches, a lot of passion there,” he said.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said his team had done a fair bit of work on their speed in the pre-season and it showed against the Hurricanes, but he wasn’t getting carried away.
“It’s a long competition and we’ve got to make sure that we can put that performance in each week,” he said.
Larkham expects lock Rory Arnold to be right for Friday’s match after copping a knock to his knee and suffering some swelling.
Waratahs prop Benn Robinson is in doubt for the game after suffering a broken nose and displaying concussion-type symptoms.
The Rebels will be sweating on the fitness of playmakers Jack Debreczeni (illness), Mike Harris (quad) and captain and halfback Nic Stirzaker (shoulder) heading into next weekend’s clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.