The Brumbies are confident they’re ready to match wits with defending Super Rugby champions the Highlanders in Friday night’s quarter-final in Canberra.
The Highlanders have gained a deserved reputation for their clever and varied tactical game, mixing offensive kicking with blistering ball-in-hand attack when the time is right.
Brumbies co-captain Stephen Moore admits his team need to play more intelligently in both attack and defence than they did when beaten 23-10 win by the Highlanders in round 10 in Invercargill.
“We need to be a bit smarter about where we play tomorrow night and still take our opportunities when we see them,” Moore said on Thursday.
“I think they’ll make the breakdown a priority and make sure they get their quick ball, but they’ll probably slow our ball down as well.
“They’ll look for holes in our line off kick-chase and little short-sides – it’s all those little things that we need to be really sharp with.”
With the Highlanders boasting a backline featuring All Blacks in fullback Ben Smith, winger Waisake Naholo, five-eighth Lima Sopoaga and halfback Aaron Smith, the Brumbies are bracing for a fast game.
Coach Stephen Larkham said their mobility, set-piece and the kicking game from the likes of Smith and Sopoaga posed the biggest danger.
“They’ve got a pretty good all-round game,” he added.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them, but we’ve done some pretty good work this week to be ready for what they’re going to throw at us.
“We’ve put a bit of focus into making sure our set-piece defence is good and … our kicking game and how to nullify their kicking game.”
The Brumbies, Australia’s only team in the finals, have been bolstered by the return of superstar flanker David Pocock from an eye socket injury and welcome back Robbie Coleman on the wing.
An elbow injury has ruled out newly-capped Wallabies lock Rory Arnold, with Blake Enever taking his place in the starting side.
“There’s a lot of confidence in Blake in big games,” added Larkham.
“He’s a very technical player, he works very hard for his teammates.”