Rugby Union


Brumbies-Waratahs fierce rivalry fueled by pay inequality

It is the fiercest rivalry in Australian rugby, fueled by the NSW Waratahs boasting double the wages of the ACT Brumbies "rejects" in Super Rugby's early days and it still holds true today.

Brumbies legend Rod Kafer said the ACT men and Waratahs had never liked each other and a pay inequality that failed to shift despite the Brumbies being the better team had only increased the tension.

Wallabies fullback Israel Folau's contract with the Australian Rugby Union ensures the Harbour City's team still earns more today.

Kafer said the Waratahs had been the best side all season, but with that came the weight of expectation and added pressure.

"NSW and Queensland in those early days had twice the player bill of what the Brumbies had for the same number of players," Kafer said. "The Wallabies players of the time were in NSW and Queensland.

"Over the first two years of Super Rugby, we finished in front of NSW and we thought the balance should've shifted, but it took a while to shift – it took a long while ... and that always in a professional game, where your value is largely determined by the price you're paid, that certainly irked many players."


Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said "physicality will be king" when the rivalry continues at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

The Waratahs bashed the Brumbies when they played in June. Coach Michael Cheika has signalled their intentions to do the same by naming a forwards-heavy bench, and only two backs are among the eight reserves.

"The Waratahs carry strong and they carry quick, we need to challenge them at set-piece and be better than we were defensively last time," Fisher said. "It needs to be a challenge where the collision is. It's a wonderful rivalry, in sport your closest neighbour is your strongest rival. The effort has to be driven by emotion, but it has to be controlled as well. I've never enjoyed my rugby so much."

The Brumbies play what is perceived as a conservative style, but they have scored 10 tries in the past two games.

"We've had the weaponry all year, it's just about using it. We might as well get it out and have a crack, because there is no next week," Fisher said. "What you got, you might as well put it on show. Last time we played we attempted 228 tackles, they attempted 105 tackles. Physicality is going to be king."

Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said the team's finals experience would bode well for the biggest derby since NSW played the ACT in a semi-final in 2002.

"We feel relaxed, we take a lot of confidence of two knockout games we've played ... we've won four of the five finals games over the past two years," Mowen said. "Finals is when we play our best footy, we know we can perform under pressure."