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Classic Brumbies get a guernsey

Clyde Rathbone and George Smith have both been named in the starting team for the Brumbies clash against the Cheetahs this Sunday.

Clyde Rathbone and George Smith have both been named in the starting team for the Brumbies clash against the Cheetahs this Sunday. Photo: Melissa Adams

They pulled on the retro ''heavy, cotton jerseys of a playing strip revolution'' to relive their championship memories and the last links to the ACT Brumbies' golden era are determined to deliver success to a new generation.

Brumbies George Smith and Clyde Rathbone will play against the Free State Cheetahs at Canberra Stadium on Sunday in the club's first Super Rugby finals appearance since 2004.

They are the only players still playing from the team that won the title nine years ago.

The Canberra Times can reveal that Rathbone will be included in the Brumbies' starting team to play the Cheetahs, capping off a remarkable comeback to rugby after chronic injuries forced him to retire in 2009.

The shock call up to the wing in one of the club's most important games in a decade comes just 18 months after 31-year-old Rathbone went public with his battle against depression.

Australian rugby legend Smith is back in the capital for a farewell season following stints in France and Japan, and the finals clash will probably be his last game at Canberra Stadium.

He has played 111 games for the Wallabies and 138 games for the Brumbies. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in Australian rugby history.

''We want to show what we're capable of … we've only showed patches of what we're capable of. We'll need the support of Canberra behind us,'' he said.

Almost 12,000 tickets have been sold for the match against the Cheetahs as coach Jake White and his team attempt to remain in the championship race.

If the Brumbies win, they will fly to South Africa on Monday morning to play against the Pretoria Bulls in the second week of the finals.

The players tried to build up excitement when they hosted a barbecue in Civic on Thursday with hundreds of fans turning up for autographs and ticket giveaways.

For Rathbone and Smith, the hype and excitement is giving them a sense of deja vu.

As rising stars in 2004, the pair were part of a team of champions including Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Owen Finegan, Joe Roff and Stirling Mortlock.

Rathbone, then 22 years old, was in his second season with Canberra.

The Brumbies had made the finals every year from 2000 to 2005, including titles in 2001 and 2004.

No one thought beating the Canterbury Crusaders in an absorbing 47-38 grand final in 2004 would be the last time the Brumbies would see playoff action until almost a decade later.

''There are similarities and differences now. Back then finals were probably valued a bit higher because there were less chances to see the Brumbies,'' Rathbone said.

''I didn't appreciate how rare it was. I was injured in '03 and we won the comp in '04. When you're young you just think winning is just what the Brumbies do. I didn't think I'd have to wait nine years to get another opportunity.''

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