Andrew Smith says the Brumbies have the team to win the Super Rugby title. Photo: Colleen Petch
Breaking a nine-year finals drought won't cut it for the ACT Brumbies - they're determined to bring the Super Rugby trophy back to Canberra for the first time since 2004.
Still stinging from letting a play-off spot slip through their fingers in the final game of last season, the Brumbies have set themselves the lofty goal of not only winning the Australian conference but also taking out the southern hemisphere's biggest prize in provincial rugby.
The Brumbies kick-off their campaign in less than a fortnight when they host the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on February 16.
With South African World Cup-winning coach Jake White entering his second season in charge and the addition of Wallabies captain David Pocock and former international Clyde Rathbone to the playing roster, outside centre Andrew Smith sees no reason why the Brumbies can't mix it with the best in the competition.
''That [the title] is what we're aiming for and I think we've got the squad to do it,'' Smith said. ''This is the year we're going to try to have a good crack at it. There's a lot of belief in the squad from last year, so there's a good feeling in the team.''
The Brumbies got valuable game time into several of their returning stars in Friday night's 20-18 win over the Western Force in Darwin.
The score was largely irrelevant as key playmakers Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano made their first appearances since season-ending injuries last year.
There were also encouraging debuts for highly touted recruits Pocock and Rathbone, the 31-year-old crossing for a try in his first game since retiring in 2009 and battling depression. The Brumbies round out preparations with a match against an ACT XV at Viking Park on Friday.
Rugby league convert Joseph Tomane is expected to play after recovering from a hamstring injury and will resume his strong combination with Smith, who was one of the mainstays last season. The under-rated 28-year-old played every game and was one of the Brumbies' most solid contributors, but enters his fourth season not knowing what his future is beyond this year.
Smith is off-contract at the end of the season and hasn't ruled out continuing his career abroad. ''I'm always looking to stay in Canberra, we've got a good set-up here and are building something special. Staying another year or so is definitely an option, but so is overseas, so I'm not sure at this stage,'' he said.
ACT Brumbies v ACT XV at Viking Park, 7pm.