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ACT earns respect in intimidating arena

Date

Chris Dutton, in South Africa

15: Jesse Mogg (Brumbies) (1). Click for more photos

Australian team of the week - April 22

Each week, Greg Growden picks the form team from the Australian conference after the weekend matches. Number of times selected in brackets. Photo: AFP

They walked into Loftus Versfeld in awe of one of Super Rugby's most intimidating venues and left having earned respect.

The ACT Brumbies might have fallen short of beating the Pretoria Bulls, but their two-point loss is evidence of how far the young squad has come.

In just nine games Jake White's Brumbies have proven the new generation is capable of creating its own successful history.

Christian Lealiifano summed it up best after the biggest test of the Brumbies' season when he said: ''We're proud, but disappointed.''

The South African media hijacked the post-match press conference to grill White about the Springboks and all things South Africa.

It glossed over the fact the Brumbies have turned from cellar-dwellers into a genuine finals contender.

It's fair to say at the start of the season the Brumbies would have been happy to get within two points of the Bulls in Pretoria. But they were far from satisfied when they left after a 36-34 loss.

Half of White's 26-man touring squad has never been to South Africa to play Super Rugby.

It showed when they walked into Loftus Versfeld for their captain's run and the players posed for photos in front of the stands.

But when the game started, they silenced the 25,000-strong crowd with some scintillating play and led 10-9 after 20 minutes.

In the end the Brumbies lacked the composure to clinch a history-making win.

However, external expectations are now changing. With the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference, there's a quiet confidence their impressive form won't end.

The Brumbies have already exceeded expectations set at the start of the year. The challenge now is whether they can keep rising to new heights.

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