Half truths ... the Brumbies prefer to kick in their own territory. Photo: Getty Images
It will be disappointing to see anything but a massive crowd at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night when we lock horns with Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies.
This isn't just because of the ramifications the result will have on both team's campaigns but that the Brumbies have been extremely busy reminding us that in their mind, it was their poor performance against us in round seven that allowed the Reds to walk away 20-13 victors at Suncorp Stadium.
Having listened to the thoughts of Jake White and their team over the past few days, it would appear that the performance, selection and tactics of the Reds had nothing to do with that loss. It was their off-night which allowed the Reds to dominate them physically at the breakdown and force them into too many errors.
This attitude, combined with the fact that they have managed to include the tag “champions” in almost every reference they've made of the Reds, shows us the mentality in which they are approaching this game.
But it's funny how things are remembered. I recall castigating our forwards on that night for not nailing a try-scoring lineout drive opportunity just prior to halftime against the Brumbies, which would have made the score 21-0 in our favour. As it was, the Brumbies came back into the game by scoring 10 points while Liam Gill was off the field following a yellow card. They only scored three points when it was 15 v 15. Is that tactics or poor performance?
Entering the match on Saturday night I can assure you the Reds will be paying the Brumbies the proper respect and we acknowledge that they are a team with many strengths. Looking back across the season, there is evidence that teams have not shown enough respect for their capabilities and have been stung for it. I can assure you we won't make that mistake.
The Brumbies are a team which rank in the top two as far as field position goes. A quick analysis of how they use their possession shows that in the past six games, they have kicked on every occasion expect one when they receive usable scrum and lineout ball within their own half.
With the way the game is being played this year, this approach makes good sense. You don't want to play the game in front of your own goal posts when there is uncertainty around the breakdown contest.
I guess the question remains is what happens if your opponents subscribe to the same theory - if both teams refuse to play football in their own half? It then becomes a contest of pressure, errors and quality of kicking. We already witnessed this when the Crusaders took on the Stormers. It was 43 kicks to 47 kicks but many thought it was a good contest as the execution of the basics of the game was paramount.
A cursory look at the key statistics show the Brumbies have been very good at getting the key parts of the game right. Don't be deceived by their player's statements about the 'simplicity' of their play. Simple means clarity and this means focus becomes easy under pressure.
They don't play any rugby in their own half and they play very direct at the goal posts when they enter opposition territory. They then milk penalties for their efforts. Over the past four weeks they've been improving their try-scoring potency and are above the competition average in line breaks, broken tackles and ruck speed numbers.
They have been similarly effective in defence although I did notice they best at conceding penalties at the ruck in their own half.
Despite all this the Reds will travel to Canberra with some confidence for a couple of reasons. Playing it Canberra was previously a graveyard for the Reds but this changed last season.
Everyone is eager to tell me that it's a different Brumbies team now to the one we beat last year and there's a difficult culture there too. I don't disagree. But that won't stop us from taking confidence from producing a result in a stadium we have never won at before, where we were playing at zero degrees.
Yes, the team and tactics they will employ will be different this time round, but they are also less experienced have already lost this season in Canberra to the Sharks. This shows us it isn't an impossible task.
As much as the Brumbies have defied expectations and we have battled, I note that we have actually won the same number of games, suggesting that we are more than competitive. If you look further you will notice that of the teams we have both played against, we have actually overcome a number of the same sides. The difference has been that the draw requires the Reds to play the Stormers and Crusaders in 2012, both losses, while the Brumbies play the Cheetahs and Hurricanes, two wins.
We will run onto Canberra Stadium with great respect for what the Brumbies have achieved and how they have gone about it. We understand each other pretty well so it will come down to a matter of will and attitude.
I like these types of contests. Gunfighters at 20 paces.