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Pain can fuel Brumbies' title hunt

Date

After exceeding expectations last year, it's crucial Jake White's team doesn't rest on its laurels following the signing of David Pocock, writes CHRIS DUTTON

Matt Toomua of the Brumbies is forced off with a knee injury.

Matt Toomua of the Brumbies is forced off with a knee injury. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

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nother near miss in an eight-season drought or an invaluable stepping stone of the new generation?

The only way to find the answer is to see how the ACT Brumbies deal with their unexpected rise as they move into uncharted territory next year.

Jesse Mogg runs away to score a try in round six.

Jesse Mogg runs away to score a try in round six. Photo: Stefan Postles

The easy option is to brush over narrowly missing the finals as an unknown team, proving everyone wrong in a stunning turnaround.

But the reality is the new generation Brumbies need to view it negatively, as a missed chance at glory, and use the pain to spur them to greater heights. It's amazing how much can change in a year.

Jake White took over after one of the most turbulent periods in Brumbies history - sacked coaches, superstars exiting and a dismal 2011 season.

Instead of big names, the South African set about turning a team filled with untapped potential into a Super Rugby contender.

In came new players, new coaches and new hope, with White using his four-year tenure to rebuild the two-time champion into a title threat.

The problem was the Brumbies hit their first major hurdle after just one game.

The club and the players desperately needed stability in the first year of rebuilding, but then White was linked to the English coaching job.

It was the first of many sink or swim moments.

Had White turned his back on the Brumbies and taken a chance to return to international rugby, the club could have crumbled.

All indications suggested White would leave. He went to lunch with the senior players before the match against the Free State Cheetahs in March, and even they didn't know whether the man touted as the Brumbies' saviour was about to walk away from the club.

In a bizarre few hours at Canberra Stadium, White first revealed to his team he would stay, then told the media of his plans to focus on the Brumbies.

By his own admission, he was tempted by the chance to lead England - the host for the 2015 World Cup.

But for whatever reason, he took a punt on the Brumbies and, instead of getting stuck in a downward spiral, the team ran on to the field and clinched a last-second penalty-goal win against the Cheetahs.

Just a year after a Brumbies team of stars created records for all the wrong reasons, White's decision to stay in Canberra kick-started what most thought was impossible.

The Brumbies' team of no-names - boasting just four Wallabies - surprised all of its rivals.

They went on to:

* Have the most successful two-game tour of South Africa in a decade;

* Break a nine-year hoodoo in Wellington;

* Secure 10 bonus points for the first time since 2002, having losing margins of seven points or less in all but one of their defeats.

One of the biggest turning points came when Christian Lealiifano dislocated his ankle against the NSW Waratahs.

Lealiifano had been playing so well that even though he missed the last six weeks of the season, he almost claimed enough votes to be crowned Australia's Super Rugby player of the year.

It's easy for the Brumbies to wonder ''what if'' after they held top spot in the Australian conference for most of the season.

What if Zack Holmes had kicked that last-minute penalty goal against the Queensland Reds in May?

What if Lealiifano and Matt Toomua hadn't suffered season-ending injuries?

Or what if Stephen Larkham had made a surprise comeback to help the finals charge?

Regardless, the Brumbies still had a golden chance to clinch their first finals berth since 2004 in the last round of the regular season.

All they had to do was beat the Blues - a team anchored near the bottom of the ladder with only pride left to play for - or lose by seven points or less.

Maybe it was the pressure, the hype, the expectation or the dream, but it took its toll on the young side and they crumbled under pressure.

The loss was a bitter pill to swallow after a resurgent season. The way they capitulated against the Blues was especially hard to take.

As captain Ben Mowen said: ''It's just a choke, you can't call it anything else. But I honestly believe that if we win a championship, we'll look back and say that was the game [against the Blues] that changed us.''

The on-field performances exceeded everyone's expectations, including White's, Mowen's and the rest of the side's.

Guys like Jesse Mogg, Joseph Tomane, Scott Fardy, Fotu Auelua and Nic White went from unknown rookies to future stars.

White turned his back on Test rugby to focus on a four-year plan in Canberra.

But perhaps the biggest moment of all happened after the choke and the on-field revival - snaring the signature of star flanker and Wallabies regular David Pocock.

Pocock is the biggest signing in Brumbies history.

The challenge for year two of White's plan is to ensure the players don't suffer second-year syndrome and rely on their gun recruit to end their finals drought.

We'll have to wait until the end of 2013 before we know if this year was a success or failure.

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 58 vs RED 17 Report Stats
REB 42 vs BLU 22 Report Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 32 vs SHA 24 Report Stats
FOR 18 vs WAR 11 Report Stats
LIO 28 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 25 vs BRU 24 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 23 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
RED 46 vs REB 29 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 22 vs CHF 18 Report Stats
WAR 33 vs SHA 18 Report Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO 20 vs BRU 30 Stats
CHT 24 vs HIG 45 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF 34 vs BUL 20 Report Stats
RED 14 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 5 vs HUR 29 Report Stats
WAR 32 vs CRU 22 Report Stats
FOR 3 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 17 vs LIO 40 Report Stats
STO 31 vs REB 15 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 17:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
RED vs CHF 19:40SS
CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 19:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 13 12 1 0 143 57
Waratahs 13 9 4 0 50 41
Stormers 13 9 4 0 42 38
Chiefs 13 9 4 0 87 44
Brumbies 13 7 6 0 102 38
Lions 14 8 6 0 -27 36
Highlanders 13 9 4 0 89 43
Bulls 13 7 6 0 29 35
View all
 
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