ACT Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen has urged his players to draw on the history of a ''classic'' rivalry to help them break a 14-year hoodoo against the Canterbury Crusaders.
Mowen wants the new generation Brumbies to add a win against the Crusaders in New Zealand to their Super Rugby ''resume'', declaring the chance to beat the competition's most successful team at home has been a massive motivation this week.
The Brumbies fly to Christchurch on Friday to prepare for their clash against seven-time champions the Crusaders.
Ben Mowen in action against the Crusaders last year. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Crusaders haven't lost at home since 2004 and the Brumbies haven't beaten the competition's most successful team in New Zealand in 14 years.
New Zealand and Crusaders great Richie McCaw will make his comeback from a thumb injury, but the world's best player, Kieran Read, has been ruled out with concussion.
The Brumbies haven't beaten the Crusaders since 2009 and haven't beaten their rivals in New Zealand since 2000. With wins at Pretoria, Durban, Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Johannesburg already under their belt in the past two seasons, the Brumbies are intent on adding Christchurch to their list on Saturday.
''It [the 14-year drought] has been spoken about massively,'' Mowen said. ''This group has prided ourself on picking up milestones as we go along in the seasons. There's obviously a huge carrot waiting there for us this weekend, getting a win against any Crusaders side in Christchurch is massive.''
The Brumbies and Crusaders met in three finals between 2000 and 2004. Both teams or either the Brumbies or Crusaders were involved in every grand final from 1997-2006. But the Crusaders have won seven titles while the Brumbies have two and have been in the play-offs just once since 2004.
Only a handful of Brumbies players have beaten the Crusaders – Mowen, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua.
''As a rugby fan these are the games you want to watch, two attacking sides going head to head – they're classic matches,'' Mowen said. ''I remember watching [coach Stephen Larkham and George Gregan] running around in epic matches and they're some of the best games I remember. That responsibility isn't lost on us.''
While the Crusaders will be bolstered by McCaw's comeback, the Brumbies go into the match with an unchanged starting XV to the one which beat the defending champion Waikato Chiefs last weekend. The only change is to the bench with Ruaidhri Murphy replacing Ruan Smith as a back-up prop.
''It was a good performance last week and we want to reward those players,'' said Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher. ''We haven't won since 2000 over there, it's a really important game for us to maintain momentum in our season. I really do think it is a step up for us, there's no greater challenge [in Super Rugby].''
The Brumbies got a tour of their new $16.5 million base at the University of Canberra on Thursday. But the club's moving date has been pushed back again, with players hoping to be training at their new facility next month.
The multi-sport hub boasts an 18-bed sleeping room, theatrette, altitude room and an indoor running track. There are also two training fields, but Mowen warned that the players couldn't rely on state-of-the-art training facilities to give them an edge.
''We've been based at the AIS [this year] and they've been very accommodating here,'' Mowen said. ''The next chapter of Brumbies rugby is going to be exciting when we move to the university. But the work you do on the field and gym is done regardless of where you are ... the Brumbies won two championships from an old bowling club at Griffith and we can't rely on facilities for performance.''