PLAYING the Waratahs is always the biggest game of the year.
While neither team will make or ruin its finals aspirations by winning or losing tomorrow night, it will still go a long way to determining the make-up of the Australian Conference and the team's mindset - in terms of confidence and where we want to be.
I've never beaten the Waratahs.
I've had two attempts and both times they've managed to walk away with a win. But that's history and tomorrow is a fresh opportunity for a new group, many of whom have never had a chance to play the Tahs before. When my career started straight out of school, my major goal was to play for the Tahs and I was lucky enough to grab a spot in their academy.
During the two years I was with the Waratahs, I learned plenty about my own game and where I needed to be, but couldn't crack the next level to play Super Rugby.
In simple words, I was told I was a good club player but would never play Super Rugby.
For many Brumbies players, this is not a special or unique situation. The original Brumbies were a group of discards, who couldn't get a start anywhere else but came to Canberra for an opportunity.
In a way, I look at our young Brumbies team having been built under similar circumstances with many players being involved with academies around Australia.
Two other guys who never got a crack at the Tahs are journeyman Scott Fardy and Andrew Smith, who have both found a home here in Canberra playing under Jake, Laurie and Bernie.
But whatever the history, our focus this week has not been on them or what has happened in the past. We've concentrated on our own game. We know that if we execute our own game we will come away with the result. The team is full of confidence after a successful tour of South Africa where we managed to claim seven competition points and score 11 tries against the Bulls and the Lions.
We are expecting a big crowd at Canberra Stadium, most of whom will be supporting the Brumbies which will be a nice change from the less-than-warm reception we received the last two weeks in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Ben Mowen returns to the starting side this week, along with Dan Palmer and Sam Carter. Ben and Dan are especially excited about playing against their former team. It's a credit to the depth of our squad that players of Dan, Ben and Sam's quality can be rotated and rested and we can still win games on the road. Two of the Waratahs' newest faces return to Canberra Stadium for the first time this week in Rocky Elsom and Adam Ashley-Cooper. Both will be looking for a big performance in front of their former home crowd.
In particular, Adam has a long history with the Brumbies having played 78 games for the ACT. More than anyone, Coopy used to love the clash against the Tahs, which is ironic considering he will be wearing a sky blue jersey tomorrow night.
We are hoping for a massive crowd and urge all families to get their kids along for what shapes as the biggest game of our season so far.
Pat McCabe is an ACT Brumbies and Wallabies centre.