All Blacks great Tana Umaga blames SANZAAR’s downsizing saga for the sorry plight of Australian rugby after New Zealand’s utter control of Super Rugby continued with another weekend whitewash.
A 40-33 victory for Umaga’s Blues over NSW Waratahs in Sydney and the Chiefs’ 46-17 thrashing of Queensland Reds in New Plymouth extended New Zealand’s collective winning streak over Australian teams in the competition to 23 matches – and 17 this season.
Only a massive upset in any of the eight remaining trans-Tasman home-and-away fixtures can deny the Kiwi dominators a 25-0 clean sweep of their Australian counterparts in 2017.
Umaga suspects the ongoing uncertainty around which Australian team will be cut from the competition in 2018 is taking its toll.
“We all know that there’s been some tough things going on over here and not just on the field, obviously off the field, so that’s unsettling,” he said after his Blues consigned the Waratahs to a fourth straight loss at Allianz Stadium for the first time since 1999.
Waratahs Matt King/Getty Images
“It’s pretty tough to keep everyone on an even keel when you’re always looking over your shoulder wondering what if and what could happen, and so that’s tough.
“There’s some quality players and staff involved in these groups and they’ll get it back on track, but I suppose what everyone’s looking for is a decision to be made so everyone can know what’s happening.
“That’s just how it is and we’re taking advantage of that, obviously.”
Asked how the under-performing – but safe – Waratahs and Reds could blame the SANZAAR situation for their on-field woes, Umaga said: “I’m sure they wouldn’t see that as an excuse. It’s just the lay of the land. It’s reality”.
“If you talk about players and staff, and the uncertainty of it, it’s like anything; if you’re in employment and you don’t know what’s going to happen from year to year, you can’t say that it’s not unsettling.”
Matt Duffie Matt King/Getty Images
Australia’s struggles aren’t restricted to New Zealand rivals. The Melbourne Rebels’ 47-10 home loss to the Lions and the Sharks’ 37-12 defeat of Western Force in Durban leaves Australian franchises with just three wins from 31 matches against all overseas opposition this campaign.
The Kiwis also continue to rule South Africa, with the unbeaten Crusaders’ 62-24 rout of the Bulls in Pretoria completing another weekend sweep for the powerful New Zealand conference.
The Hurricanes came from behind late to see off the Stormers 41-22 in Wellington, but the titleholders’ comeback paled into comparison to the Highlanders’ against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The 2015 champions trailed by 17 points before piling on three tries in the last five minutes to snatch a 45-41 victory.
In the final match of round 11, the Jaguares edged the Sunwolves 46-39 in a high-scoring thriller in Buenos Aires.
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Umaga feels for struggling Aussie Super franchises
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