For a man who just skippered the Brumbies to the Super Rugby finals, Christian Lealiifano was surprisingly downbeat.
Feeling under the weather, with a cut above his right eye and a sore shoulder, the usually jovial playmaker struggled to crack a smile after Saturday’s 24-10 win over the Western Force to claim Australian conference honours.
He was less than impressed with his side’s showing in what was largely an uninspiring display at GIO Stadium against the country’s worst-ranked team.
While it was enough to get them to a fourth straight playoffs, Lealiifano wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“I’m one of the more disappointed ones,” the co-captain said.
“I was disappointed with the errors we made and just couldn’t really build any momentum which was frustrating.
“I think our attack got a bit lost at times there, and as a game caller and controller I was disappointed to not boss the boys around enough.”
The Brumbies only needed one point from the match to kick the NSW Waratahs – who lost to the Blues on Friday but claimed a bonus point – out of the finals race and secure Australia’s sole ticket to the playoffs.
They will face last year’s champions the Highlanders at home on Friday.
Lealiifano didn’t believe complacency was the issue against the Force, who applied plenty of defensive pressure – which the Brumbies handled well.
“We came in with a clear focus and a plan with the way we wanted to play, and I guess that’s what’s most disappointing – that we didn’t really execute what we wanted to,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt us too much but it’s a good learn for us heading into this part of the season, to be able to adapt in those situations.
“After we get over this disappointment … I think we’ll come in on Monday buzzing that we’ve got an opportunity to push forward in this comp.”
The 28-year-old had been sick all week but said not enough to keep out him out from Friday’s quarter-final.