Brumbies player Pat McCabe at team training at Griffith Oval. Photo: Richard Briggs
The Queensland Reds built their championship-winning season around Quade Cooper's unpredictable brilliance but the ACT Brumbies are backing their no-frills game plan to topple the defending champions on Saturday.
The Brumbies will attempt to extend their lead at the top of the Australian conference when they take on the Reds at Canberra Stadium.
Wallabies flyhalf Cooper made his comeback from a knee reconstruction last weekend and had an immediate impact despite playing just 40 minutes.
Cooper has the ability to tear an opposition team apart. But the star pivot's style is a direct contrast to the ''simple'' Brumbies who have designed their resurgence around a plan which relies on team involvement, not individual genius.
Cooper and Brumbies inside centre Pat McCabe formed the Wallabies' 10-12 combination at the World Cup last year.
And McCabe believes the Brumbies' structured style can trump the Reds' attacking flair.
''It makes it a lot easier for guys that step in, there's not a huge amount of plays they need to know,'' McCabe said. ''The nice things that get the crowd excited are still happening with the off-loads and the footwork. So far I think we've done the simple things quite well and it all comes back to the basics.
''It's no secret how good [Cooper] is and the combination he has with Will [Genia] is something that led to them winning the championship.
''[Cooper] gives them a lot of confidence, he's a huge threat … he's got such a huge array of skills that you can't predict what he's going to do and probably at the last minute he doesn't know what he's going to do.''
McCabe will likely retain his place in the Wallabies squad for Tests against Scotland and Wales next month. But given his versatility, it is unclear if he'll be used in the centres, on the wing or at fullback.
The Brumbies have reinvented themselves this season under former World Cup-winning coach Jake White.
They have won seven of their 11 matches at sit at the top of the Australian conference.
If they beat the Reds, they will be on the verge of their first finals appearance since 2004.
After a horror campaign last year - during which the Brumbies won just four games - White has transformed the club. They have scored 22 tries in the past five matches and secured eight bonus points already.
Outside centre Andrew Smith is benefiting from the rejigged game plan. He has cemented the No.13 jersey and is forming a strong midfield combination with McCabe.
''The confidence comes with each game, you trust everyone around you will do the job,'' Smith said.
''We've got quite a basic game plan, our defensive structure is pretty basic so it's all about trusting the guy next to you.
''Everyone understands exactly what they have to do … I guess I've just had an opportunity this year and I knew it was going to be a big year and I feel I've taken that opportunity.''
Meanwhile, Reds utility back Ben Lucas is struggling with a groin injury and was rested from training yesterday afternoon. But coach Ewen McKenzie remains confident Lucas can recover from the problem and line up for the defending champions' last match before their mid-season break.