Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham admits their Super Rugby title window could be shutting with the departure of some key players at the end of this season.
Brumbies and Test captain Stephen Moore will leave for the Reds while Test flanker David Pocock is off contract at the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season and is considering a massive English club contract or a one-year sabbatical from Australian rugby to study in the UK.
Fellow international Matt Toomua is also off to English club Leicester at season’s end.
After losing the final in 2013 and playing in the semi-finals in 2014 and 2015 before bowing out, Larkham said it was a case of now or never.
They won their last title back in 2004.
“This group of players has been together probably four or five years and we know that a number of the guys are going overseas or to a different franchise next year and it’s probably our last opportunity as a group to achieve something,” Larkham said.
“We’ve been somewhat successful over the last couple of years … and it doesn’t sit well with us that we’ve had OK seasons but not great seasons.
“We’ve spent a bit of time talking about that and realised that this is a great opportunity but there’s a fair bit of luck and hard work that goes into it.”
The Brumbies begin their campaign against the Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium on February 26.
Larkham said his own preparation had been delayed by his commitment to Australia’s World Cup campaign as the Wallabies attack coach but he felt he had been back on track for the past three weeks.
He said, working under Test coach Michael Cheika last year, he had learnt plenty he could transfer to the Brumbies.
“I learnt a lot out of it not only from a leadership point of view but also how to motivate players individually and as a team.
“It was a good opportunity for me to have a look at attack as a whole, not just the backs, and I’ve brought a bit of that back to the Brumbies.”
While the Test and Super commitments were a juggle he hoped to continue in both roles.