The Brumbies’ deadly rolling maul has the NSW Waratahs second-guessing and on guard entering Friday night’s Super Rugby crunch match in Canberra.
With so many of the Brumbies’ tries this season, including three last week against the Highlanders, coming from rolling mauls after close-range lineout wins, Waratahs captain Dave Dennis has no doubts their chief conference rivals will employ the potent play at GIO Stadium.
“They’re a team that’s very effective in the rolling maul so I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a crack at us in that area,” Dennis said on Thursday.
NSW coach Michael Cheika, though, isn’t quite so sure and has instructed his reigning champions to be ready for anything from a Brumbies outfit readily admitting victory is non negotiable if they want to retain control of their own finals fate.
“The maul will certainly play a part in this game this weekend,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
“I mean, we pride ourselves on the technical aspects of the game and the maul is a technical aspect of the game.
“We’ll certainly be using it at some stage.”
But just when, only Larkham and the Brumbies know – and certainly not Cheika.
“I think they’ll do a bit of both,” he said.
“Stephen’s a smart operator so he’s obviously going to know that we’re going to be transfixed on the maul and then he’ll do something different.
“But then we’ll think he’s going to do something different so he’ll go back to the maul.
“It’s double dutch all the time and everyone’s spying on everyone. It’s all good fun in planning for the game but the reality of it is, if you want to be a winner in this game, you’ve got to be ready for everything.”
The Waratahs are four points behind the Brumbies on the competition ladder but with a game in hand.
Aware of the significance of getting a result, Cheika on Thursday named his strongest possible starting line-up.
Wycliff Palu returns in the only change to the side that edged the Melbourne Rebels 18-16 last outing, with skipper Dave Dennis moving into the second row to accommodate the powerful No.8.
The Waratahs have won their past three encounters with the Brumbies but not tasted success in the national capital since 2011.
“We’re always trying to achieve things that we haven’t done before and we haven’t won down there with this group together,” Cheika said.
“It’s obviously very, very difficult to do that and a big thing for us is to make sure we play really, really well and try and put together the best performance we’ve ever had.
“I think that’s what it’s going to take to win down there.”
The match is the first against the Brumbies since Potgieter was fined for making homophobic slurs during the heated round-six affair in Sydney, won 28-13 by the Waratahs.
But neither Cheika nor Dennis expect the abrasive South African to be taking a backward step in the two sides’ return stoush.
“He’s really reacted well on-field because he could have gone into his shell a little bit after that,” Cheika said.
“The message from me to him is, I just want him to be himself. That’s what he’s been since he got here and he’s been the standout performer for us since his arrival.”