Date: June 01 2012
Forget settling for a spot in the finals, the ACT Brumbies are perfectly positioned for a charge to a top-two finish as they try to break their play-off drought.
With just three games remaining in the regular season, the Brumbies hold the key to their Super Rugby finals dream after beating the Melbourne Rebels 27-19 at AAMI Park last night.
It will go down as one of the ugliest wins of the new Brumbies’ era.
But the reality of Jake White’s leadership is that the Brumbies don’t care how they win and what it looks like – their No. 1 priority is getting results.
The only problem is they have to wait three weeks to continue their play-off surge with the competition going on a hiatus for the mid-season internationals.
If the Brumbies can usurp the top South African or New Zealand team, they will earn a week’s break in the first round of finals.
But White will ensure their focus remains on guaranteeing a finals berth and if they do that, there’s no limit to their potential.
In 13 games the Brumbies have risen from the disaster of last year to be a genuine title contender with one of the youngest squads in Super Rugby.
It’s the way they’ve gone about it which is most impressive.
Despite their inexperience, the Brumbies have shown poise beyond their years and a willingness to fight in every contest this season.
Now they appear destined to break the finals hoodoo which has haunted the two-time champions for the past seven years.
In their three remaining games, the Brumbies play the 11th placed NSW Waratahs, the 13th placed Western Force and competition strugglers the Auckland Blues.
They should not lose any of those.
But even if they stumble, they have played well enough in the opening three months to be within striking distance of the top.
Defending champion Queensland Reds are five points behind the Brumbies on the ladder and the battle to finish at the top of the Australian conference will be brutal.
However, the young Brumbies have the belief they can do the impossible.
Just four months ago no one thought they would be a contender.
When they arrived in Melbourne to take on the Rebels last year, a heart-breaking loss on the buzzer unravelled their season.
Coach Andy Friend was sacked after just two games of the campaign and the team never recovered as they recorded the worst season in the club’s history.
For 78 minutes last night the players and Brumbies fans were sick with déjà vu.
Despite the vast difference between the teams on the table – the Brumbies third and the Rebels 12th – the Melbourne side could sniff blood. The clash oozed danger for the Brumbies.
The Rebels had everything to gain and the Brumbies had their season on the line.
Wallabies spots were on the line ahead of the first Test of the season between Australia and Scotland in Newcastle on Tuesday.
Rugby league converts Joseph Tomane and Cooper Vuna went head to head, as did Nic White and Nick Phipps.
Vuna and Phipps probably edged ahead, but the focus of White’s squad has been putting team success ahead of individual honours.
Before the match White wanted his players to ‘‘make a statement’’ after their loss to the Reds last weekend.
And while it took the entire match, the Brumbies sent a reminder that there’s no danger of them fading in the final rounds.
The Brumbies’ next match is against the Western Force in Perth on June 30.
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