Rugby Union

Brumbies aim to break Waratahs shackles as ACT targets 20,000 crowd

ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says his side is ready to break the shackles of a NSW Waratahs curse as the club targets its biggest crowd in three years for an Australian rugby derby.

Brumbies officials are keen to capitalise on the club's attacking masterclass that saw them dismantle the Wellington Hurricanes in a 52-10 thumping to ignite the Super Rugby season.

The Brumbies hope they can lure a big crowd to Canberra Stadium for a derby against the Waratahs.
The Brumbies hope they can lure a big crowd to Canberra Stadium for a derby against the Waratahs. Photo: Rohan Thomson

It is hoped the seven-try romp and a bitter rivalry with the Waratahs will entice Brumbies supporters back to Canberra Stadium for a bold bid to get 20,000 fans to the game on Friday night.

The match falls on one of the biggest weekends of the year for Canberra sport, with the Raiders to launch their NRL campaign against the Penrith Panthers on Saturday and the Black Opal Stakes race day on Sunday.

But Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones has warned rugby fans to get their tickets early after selling 5000 seats in the 40 minutes before kick-off against the Hurricanes.

Larkham described his team's complete performance as one of the best atmosphere's he's experienced in the capital, with the 13,000-strong crowd lapping up a return to running rugby and the glory years.

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The new game plan is part of Larkham's vision to give players more freedom on the field and play an entertaining style.

However, he is also trying to end a losing rut against the Waratahs, having beaten them just once in the past six matches, including a semi-final and a trial match.

"There's no stigma around those games or an aura around the Waratahs ... we'll come up with a game plan that will accordingly suit them," Larkham said.

"The guys had a good feeling [against the Hurricanes] and it really comes down to that. It's very rare to get a score like [52-10] in Super Rugby.

"We're not looking at any previous results, this is a new team and a new journey. The first game was probably, sitting in the box, it was one of the better atmospheres I've felt.

"There's been a bit of talk about the attacking game and the team we've got, so a bit of expectation there. But there was real composure and passion from the boys."

The Brumbies, Raiders and Thoroughbred Park were unable to lock in a three-way golden ticket to give fans access to all three events this weekend.

But the Brumbies hope warm weather and a blistering start to the season will help them break through for the biggest crowd since the Waratahs derby in 2013.

Initial estimates of the round-one crowd were the lowest in a decade. There were issues with the ticket gates and corporate sales and the revised figure was more than 13,000.

Almost half of the attendance walked up to Canberra Stadium in the hour before kick-off and the Brumbies hope their revitalised game-day experience – where upgrades and corporate boxes were given away – will bring fans back.

Just 78 per cent of the Brumbies' 8000-strong membership turned up for the first-round clash.

"We're hoping for a big crowd this week, particularly on the back of the Hurricanes' game," Jones said.

"The weather is good and it's another Friday night to kick things off. I think it will be buy your ticket or miss out because we're hoping the fans enjoyed that first game."

Co-captains Stephen Moore and Christian Lealiifano were outstanding in their first outing as a leadership duo, with Lealiifano nailing seven of his eight attempts at goal as he regained his kicking mojo.

"It was nice to knock some through the poles and just get some rhythm back, but it's not about my kicking, it's about the team performance."

Larkham blooded new players Aidan Toua, Tomas Cubelli and Leslie Leuluaualii-Makin and all impressed enough to earn the right to play this week.

"I know the experienced guys stepped up, but I'd have to say everyone had a fantastic performance [against the Hurricanes]," Larkham said.

"It's a long competition and we've got to make sure that we can put that performance in each week.

"That's the job of the coaches ... to make sure that we're getting the amount of metres in their legs and giving them enough time to rest as well."

SUPER RUGBY ROUND TWO

Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

* Lifeline will auction a corporate box to the Brumbies-Waratahs match this week, offering $500 of catering, a signed jersey and Lifeline board member Stephen Moore to attend a board room lunch with the winning bidder. Details at www.allbids.com.au/lifeline.

* Brumbies duo Henry Speight and Tevita Kuridrani will auction their jerseys from the round-one win, with money raised going to Fiji to help the clean-up after Cyclone Winston. All details are at www.allbids.com.au/brumbies