Contenders or pretenders?
They’ve come close the last three years, but no Super Rugby cigar. Now with a number of stars leaving the club at the end of the season, is the ACT Brumbies’ championship window about to close? Co-captain Stephen Moore, David Pocock, Matt Toomua and Joe Tomane won’t be in Canberra next season leaving a pretty big hole both experience and talent wise that Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will need to fill if they’re going to remain a finals team. This could be their best chance of ending a 12-year title drought. The last three years they’ve made the grand final and then back-to-back semi-finals and need to beat the Otago Highlanders to keep that semi streak going.
Weather brings a sense of deja vu
It was a wet and miserable night in Invercargill the last time these two teams met and it’s going to be similar conditions in Canberra tonight. But will it lead to the same result? The Brumbies absolutely dominated both possession and territory, but couldn’t break down the Highlanders’ defence. The home team simply sat back and waited for a Brumbies’ mistake and then pounced, winning 23-10 despite limited opportunities. The Brumbies are hoping history doesn’t repeat.
Have you got your excuse ready?
The Brumbies and ACT government have teamed up to offer a free pie to the first 2000 through the gates, plus there’s free parking before 4.30pm and now they’ve even thrown in a free poncho. But wait there’s more! Well actually there isn’t, apart from the potential for a good, old-fashioned kicking duel. Will all the giveaways and a do-or-die Super Rugby final be enough to lure Canberrans out to a wet and miserable stadium? Or will they struggle to give the free pies away? You can almost hear the excuses ticking over in people’s heads…
Rugby’s version of underarm bowling
Is refusing to contest a rolling maul the rugby union equivalent to bowling underarm in cricket? For years we’ve heard our cousins from across the Ditch bang on and on about Trevor Chappell bowling underarm and how it wasn’t in the spirit of sport. Well the Kiwi Super Rugby teams’ refusal to engage the Brumbies’ rolling maul is equally unethical. It’s essentially saying, “We don’t want to play because you’re too good.” Giving up is a far bigger sin than any underarm delivery could ever be. And somehow the laws of rugby reward those who give up and refuse to compete by allowing it to nullify the Brumbies’ maul. It’s time for the Highlanders to realise the error of their ways and do the right thing.
The Pocock effect
He’s the best player in the world and his dark art of the breakdown can turn a game in the blink of an eye. But can he be a match winner after six weeks out due to a fractured eye socket? Physically there’ll be no problem as he’s one of the fittest people on the planet, it will be more an issue of whether he can produce his best on the field – especially given he’s stepping straight into the finals cauldron. One theory is he comes in fresh and firing after a break, the other is that his timing could be off through a lack of game time.