George Smith played in the Brumbies' last Super Rugby triumph. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au
The ACT Brumbies will have to break all sorts of streaks to win this year’s Super Rugby championship, but given where coach Jake White has taken them in the space of just two years, you wouldn’t count them out. In the 18 years of Super Rugby, no Australian team has won a final after coming back from South Africa, posted a finals victory in New Zealand, or won the title from outside the competition’s top two.
The Brumbies pulled a rabbit out of the hat in their last-gasp 26-23 upset victory over the Bulls in Pretoria last week. That win came a week after just holding on 15-13 against the upstart Cheetahs in Canberra. White has instilled almost South African-like traits in to this team; the scrum is a genuine weapon, while the kicking game of Jesse Mogg, Matt Toomua and Nic White allows them to control territory.
They face a massive task in overcoming reigning champions, the Chiefs . The Waikato side has managed to score the most points in Super Rugby with the least amount of ball. Their ability to turn defence in to attack is phenomenal and the Brumbies can’t afford to turn over possession. The Chiefs stopped the rampaging Crusaders 20-19 last week and the city of Hamilton, with a population of not much over 200,000, will host its second Super Rugby final in succession.
The Brumbies have named an unchanged line-up which includes George Smith and Clyde Rathbone , both of whom played in the franchise’s last Super Rugby title win in 2004, a season when they beat the Chiefs in the semis. The New Zealanders will give winger Lelia Masaga every chance to play as he tries to overcome an ankle injury.
The Chiefs have won their past two home matches against the Brumbies, but the Canberrans won four straight in Waikato prior to that. The Brumbies have been very good away from home this year losing only to the Stormers and Western Force. The Chiefs only defeat at home came in a 31-23 loss to the Reds mid-season.
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