Reality dawns for Australian Super teams

Daniel Gilhooly
The Brumbies are favoured to defend their Super Rugby Australian Conference crown

The sentiment is that Australian rugby is about to enter a new and improved era.

The reality is that another Super Rugby season has arrived and there is a mountain to climb if any of the country's four teams are to mount a sustained challenge for the silverware.

No Australian team has graced a grand final since the NSW Waratahs' triumph six years ago.

In that time, the Waratahs and Brumbies have both dipped their toes in the final four twice while the Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds haven't sampled any post-season action.

Off the back of another modest Australian World Cup campaign and the exodus of several established stars, Super Rugby expectations will be muted.

But while 2019 was dogged by rugby negativity - most notably the drawn-out Israel Folau firestorm and and Michael Cheika's explosive departure from the Wallabies - the prevailing view is that on-field improvement is around the corner.

New Australian coach Dave Rennie - watching on from Scotland - wants players putting their hands up for national honours and says he won't be afraid to blood new faces at Test level.

That could come from some of the talent promoted from the successful Junior Wallabies side.

Their impact will be most keenly observed at five-eighth, a position left bereft by the offshore departures of Bernard Foley, Christian Leali'ifano and Quade Cooper.

While the Rebels will field to out-of-position veteran Matt To'omua at No.10, playmaker duties have been initially handed to youngsters at the Waratahs (Will Harrison), Brumbies (Noah Lolesio) and Reds (Isaac Lucas).

Rising loose forwards such as new Reds skipper Liam Wright and Brumbies powerhouse Rob Valetini look ready to take the next step while exciting teenage outside back Mark Nawaqanitawase's deeds for the Waratahs have won him more off-season headlines than any player.

The Brumbies, still boasting the strongest pack on paper, are favoured to defend their Australian Conference crown before the competition undergoes another metamorphosis next year and ditches the conference system.

It's also farewell to the Sunwolves, the ill-fated Japanese franchise who will be culled at the end of what shapes as a difficult fifth and final season.