It’s
been observed during the Rugby World Cups that, whatever other strengths a team
might have, it won’t grab the prize unless its five-eighth can be seriously
considered one of the best two or three in the world – and the “three” position
might be generous. You can’t play a successful wide game without a brilliant
five-eighth, you can’t play a successful ten-man game without an extremely good
five-eighth – you simply have to have
one of the very best.

Similarly
in the Super 14, without a standout pivot, there’s not much chance of holding
the trophy which is why the Brumbies have looked like the only Australian team
with a chance after the first three rounds. No wonder then that the NSW
Waratahs are desperate to see Matt Rogers back on the paddock tomorrow night
against the Sharks. More than enough has been written about Rogers’ head game since the sad
death of his father – it’s now up to him to decide whether he’s mentally strong enough to
get on with his life.

The
former League international doesn’t have much experience in the position but
certainly showed promise there during the Wallabies’ poor European tour. He was
no Stephen Larkham, but there was hope. At his best at the Super 14 level,
there is the chance Rogers could provide the missing zip and leadership that
has left the Tahs looking ordinary despite winning two out of three. It was
coach McKenzie’s boast before the season started that NSW had so much depth
that its fortune wouldn’t depend on whether or not Rogers was playing – but he’s been
proven wrong.

In Canberra tonight, Larkham will be on
display when the Brumbies beat the Cats. Before that, the Queensland Reds,
without Larkham’s heir apparent Barnes or inspirational forward Mark Connors,
will be the underdogs against the Chiefs in Hamilton, but not without hope, while
the Western Force – well, there’s always
next year.

Peter Fray

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