CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 3

CLARKIE'S CORNER - ROUND 3

4 months ago

Match Previews

Greg Clark provides insight on the Drua's performance against the Brumbies and how they look to take on the Rebels in their first home game of the season.

Mistakes. Yes, they happen in Super Rugby because of the high intensity and the pressure teams are under. Some have a major impact, some don’t. But in the Drua’s case most have been very costly.

12 tries have been scored against the Drua in the two matches to date and the majority can be traced back to a simple error. A loose carry, a 50-50 pass missing the supporting player, dropped passes, getting isolated, etc.

So it’s not surprising that Head Coach Mick Byrne is demanding more respect for the ball, especially early in this week’s clash with the Melbourne Rebels on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

The Drua have been down 21-3 and 20-3 at half time in their two games to date and they simply can’t afford to give opponents that advantage.

The message again this week is to stick to the structures and wait for opportunities. Get the scoreboard ticking over and stay in the game. Ask more questions of the opposition’s defence.

Critics have been happy to give the Drua a honeymoon period but that won’t last forever. Some good judges believe that both the Drua and Moana Pacifika (when they finally get to play) will improve towards the business end of the competition. Coach Byrne hopes the business end starts on Friday.

This week’s news that Flying Fijian scrumhalf Frank Lomani has signed with the Drua came as a big but welcome surprise. It’s been obvious in opening matches that there’s a lack of experience and Frank will help in that department.

He has Super Rugby experience with the Rebels and was a star for the Drua in the NRC. He’ll also be a valuable part of the leadership group. His stint at Northampton Saints in the UK has ended, and while he’ll touch down in Australia this week he won’t be considered to play against the Rebels.

There’s a chance Frank won’t be the last of the European based players to return down under and play for the Drua, but those signings will most likely be in coming years rather than 2022.

I’m enjoying watching a few combinations develop, especially the Centres Kalaveti Ravouvou and Apisalome Vota. They’ve had some nice touches in the opening games.

I’ve also been impressed with the work rate of Vinaya Habosi. The 21 year old has already played for the Flying Fijians and will only get better as the weeks go by.

I’m also keeping an eye on 20 year old flanker Kitioni Salawa. Junior, as he’s known, looks to be a genuine star of the future. I’ve seen glimpses of what he’s capable of and like many of his teammates, he’ll only get better as the season progresses.

Scrums are going pretty well, especially late in the games. Except for Captain Nemani Nagusa, the average age of the other starters in the pack last week was just 22. Then the experienced Mesulame Dolokoto, Timoci Sauvoli and Manasa Saulo came off the bench to finish.

Despite the Brumbies finishing with a couple of late tries, there was a period before that when the Drua dominated possession and territory but just couldn’t come up with five pointers.

So there have been positives and it’s not time to panic just yet. But another loss this week will make things a lot tougher as the Reds and Force are waiting in the coming weeks.

The Melbourne Rebels are also winless after two rounds so they’re also under plenty of pressure. The Drua beat them in Melbourne in a pre-season trial but this will be a lot harder.

Personally I’m thrilled to be part of a new commentary team and I can’t wait to join Lailanie Burnes and Sam Wykes for all Drua home games starting this week. I hope you can join us for what could be an historic first up win in Super Rugby Pacific for the Drua.

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