I disagree on the squad strength, if you look at the top 4 and even top 6 then they are much stronger. On paper we should be competitive but in reality we have too many underperforming. Bryce (possibly both of them) is the obviousl one, Rasolea has played a lot of soup rugby but cant get past a guy who has come from Kirkcaldy and a youngster who is still learning the position. Manu, mainly through injury but has not done anything like what was expected. SHC, dont need to go into that, Gilchrist too. So what should have been big players for us have not delivered.
I agree that we're not a top 4 squad; Glasgow, Ulster, Munster and Leinster are the best teams in the league. I just don't think there's a huge difference between us and the Welsh teams/Connacht we compete with for 5th and 6th. Ospreys, Blues and Scarlets have a few good players but a lot of squad fillers and like us they suffer from the international breaks.
I'm not sure I really agree about Rasolea, Tolifau and Kevin Bryce as they were all gambles rather than key men. Rasolea could turn out like Phil Burleigh or he could turn out as he has, Tolifau is the definition of a punt. If you look at Welsh pro teams their centres are the same - young Welsh players or a punt except Scarlets who brought back Davies who's actually been pretty poor. Centres like Burleigh, Rasolea and Tolifau are the type of players that Pro12 teams with a restrictive budget can bring over. Kevin Bryce is a project we might see a return from next season or after but if we don't it's not a tragedy or the reason we're not doing well.
You're right about Manu and I've been disappointed with his play and leadership - that Highlanders team that he captained to the title were so well organised and he was a key man with Aarun and Bin Smuth and just hasn't come close to that level for us.
SHC is still 23 so technically a youngster and if he gets back to the level he can play - like I think he is at the minute - last season can be forgiven. Gilchrist is getting back from two years out which is surely difficult but he's not been good enough and has an awkward habit of getting yellow cards this season. That means if Rambo isn't out there we just don't have leaders on the pitch because despite the experience of Ford and Dickinson neither are really captain material.