The Brumbies have one foot in the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens semi-finals after finishing up as day one’s best-performed Australian side.
One of just two teams forced to play all three of their pool matches on Saturday, the Brumbies toughed through scorching conditions at Suncorp Stadium to notch a 10-0 win over French glamour club Toulon and a rousing 7-5 late comeback over South Africa’s Blue Bulls.
It means they can put their feet up until knockout play begins as the rest of the competition deals with an even hotter 39 degree day on Sunday.
“We’d imagine that we’ll qualify,” coach Stephen Larkham said.
“We’ve got the morning off to freshen up.
“Three games on the first day is very difficult to manage the load of the players, but if you look back on it now, it’s probably put us in a better position for tomorrow. That’s kind of what we set out to do.”
The only way the Brumbies can miss out on the finals is if the Bulls produce an unlikely upset over the undefeated Highlanders, the other team in their group.
Larkham was slated to pull on the boots as a wildcard player but was a late withdrawal after injuring his calf in the warm-up against the Blues – making him the second wildcard sidelined after Chris Latham’s Queensland Reds comeback was halted by a hamstring strain.
However, the Brumbies had another wildcard up their sleeve in former dual international Andrew Walker, who retired nearly a decade ago but didn’t look out of place.
The rest of the Australian franchises largely had a day to forget.
The NSW Waratahs lost 15-5 to Japanese surprise packets Panasonic Wild Knights and fell 26-14 to the Chiefs.
The Melbourne Rebels opened with an impressive 19-5 win over the Chiefs but slumped to a 17-12 defeat to the Robbie Deans-coached Wild Knights.
There were plenty of good signs for hosts Queensland in an exciting 17-17 draw with the Blues, but coach Nick Stiles fielded an inexperienced side against the Crusaders, and got thrashed 28-0, as Digby Ioane marked his return to Suncorp Stadium with a stunning try.
The Western Force, like the Brumbies, had to play three times – and though they were beaten by the Bulls and the Hurricanes, they remain alive in the tournament after winning 7-5 against Toulon in the last match of the day.
No official crowd was given but organisers Duco Events said more than 29,000 tickets were sold for Saturday.