Friday’s Super Rugby showdown against the NSW Waratahs looms as season-defining for the Brumbies, says coach Stephen Larkham.
The Canberra-based franchise sit atop the Australian conference by four points, but a loss could see them relinquish the lead to the defending champions.
Larkham said on Thursday the GIO Stadium clash would be “like a final” and could determine how the rest of the season plays out.
“It’s at that stage of the season now where, I look at the competition after this game – we’ve got five games left – and it’s going to be really difficult to maintain your position at the top of the Australian conference,” Larkham said.
“If we win this weekend, we jump ahead by a number of points; if they win then they go ahead of us and it makes it really hard for us.
“So it’s certainly at that stage where it’s season-defining.”
The Brumbies were out-muscled in attack and defence when they lost 28-13 to the Waratahs in Sydney almost six weeks ago, and they went on to drop two of their next three matches with several players out injured.
Captain Stephen Moore admitted the Brumbies got caught up in hype in their last meeting in March but intended to be a lot more clinical this time.
“I think we fell into that trap last game against the Waratahs,” Moore said. “This time around, we’ve certainly focused on our detail, the guys are in a really good frame of mind.”
Wallabies Sam Carter and Ben Alexander return to the starting line-up in an added boost for the Brumbies.
However they will again be without Wallabies halves Nic White and Matt Toomua through injury, though the influential White was close to playing and should return next week.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Joe Tomane, Christian Leali’ifano, Michael Dowsett, Ita Vaea, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Jordan Smiler, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (capt), JP Smith. Res: Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Alaalatoa, Ruan Smith, Blake Enever, Jarrad Butler, Joe Powell, James Dargaville, Nigel Ah Wong.