A bruised and battered Brumbies know they have no choice but to lift against the Western Force next weekend with their Super Rugby finals hopes on a knife’s edge.
The ACT franchise are perilously close to missing the playoffs for the first time in four years after being thrashed 40-15 by New Zealand’s bottom-ranked Blues in Auckland on Friday.
They conceded four tries in the opening 21 minutes and failed to respond, relying on their setpiece and rolling maul but struggling elsewhere in attack.
The defeat opens the door for the NSW Waratahs to overtake them on the ladder and win the Australian conference.
“And that’s basically where you’ve got to finish to get to the finals,” coach Stephen Larkham said.
“That’s obviously important for us now.”
The Brumbies host the lowly Force at GIO Stadium next Saturday night in a must-win final regular-season match.
Larkham said fatigue probably played a role in the loss to the Blues, given the travel to Auckland and short turnaround for his Wallabies ahead of last week’s win over Queensland.
“There’s plenty of excuses we can throw out there,” he added.
“I think there’s maybe one or two positive things but about 10 things we’ve got to work on.
“We’ll put everything into this week. We have an eight-day turnaround which gives us a nice weekend off and a full week’s prep starting on Monday.
“We want to get to the end of the week next week and say we’ve got no excuses for not playing well.”
Co-captain Christian Lealiifano said the Brumbies’ confidence would no doubt take a hit for what he labelled a “pretty humbling” experience against the Blues.
“When you’re a little bit off, a team like that can punish you – and that’s the nature of Super Rugby,” he said.
“We’ve spoken about it all year, to control what we can and that’s the next game.
Winger Joe Tomane is a chance of returning to face the Force after being eased by via club rugby on Saturday, but superstar flanker David Pocock is likely to remain sidelined with a fractured eye socket.