During the four-week Super Rugby break in June, instead of freshening up, the Brumbies started another pre-season.
But despite displaying some sluggish side-effects over the past two weeks, captain Ben Mowen is confident the heavy conditioning will give his underrated side the legs and mental clarity under fatigue to take out their first title since 2004.
Destiny remains in the Brumbies hands after they outlasted NSW 19-15 on Saturday night and, if they beat the Blues in Canberra this weekend, they’ll claim the Australian conference and a home final.
The only scenario that would result in them missing the playoffs would be if they failed to get a point against the lowly Blues and if Queensland scored four tries or more to trounce NSW in their final-round game.
Only then would the defending premiers cut a five-point gap to join the Brumbies on 58 competition points and progress courtesy of 11 wins to ACT’s 10.
Mowen admits his team can’t help but take a nervous glance at the precarious Super Rugby table, but said there’s a calmness about the Brumbies as well.
“There was a huge loading through that period and a lot of the guys said they thought the nightmares of pre-season had come back to get them,” said Mowen.
“We picked up a bit of fatigue out of that and that’s just the way it is. You have to pay a toll to work that hard but I think it’s going to pay dividends at the end of the year.
“We’re extremely clear about the way we want to play.
“I certainly felt by Christmas that something really special could happen.”
Queensland’s one advantage in their bid for a wildcard finals berth is the 10 wins they already have on the board, which is crucial for countback.
Currently, the Reds (53 points) are in seventh place, with the Crusaders (56 points, 10 wins) and Bulls and Sharks (both 54 and nine wins) clinging to the three wildcard spots.
If the Bulls fall to an upset loss or fail to win with a bonus point against the Lions in Pretoria, or if the Sharks suffer the same fate against the Cheetahs in Durban – then the door is open for the Reds if they get maximum points against the battling Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium.
The only way the Crusaders could risk dropping out is if they lose to the Force in Christchurch.
Queensland secured a tough 19-13 win over the Highlanders on Friday night and coach Ewen McKenzie defended his side’s safety-first approach in not playing for a vital bonus point.
“You have to win the game first,” McKenzie told AAP. “What people don’t understand is the scoreboard creates a lot of pressure.
“We have to play well over 80 minutes and you get the reward over 80 minutes so that’s the challenge there.”
The Blues ran over the top of the Force 32-9 in Auckland, while the Rebels fell just short of a breakthrough win in South Africa, losing 37-32 to the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Chiefs and Stormers have already wrapped up top spot in the respective New Zealand and South African conferences.
NSW coach Michael Foley says his side weren’t satisfied with another close loss and would need to address the problem in the off-season.