Date: July 07 2012
ACT Brumbies captain Ben Mowen has challenged his team to ''raise our expectations'' to ensure it doesn't falter in the race to a drought-breaking finals berth.
The Brumbies can secure their place in the play-offs for the first time since 2004 if they beat the NSW Waratahs with a four-try bonus point at ANZ Stadium tonight.
Less than six months ago few gave the Brumbies any hope of being titles contenders.
But with just two rounds remaining in the regular season, Mowen has no doubt the new generation Brumbies can rise to a new level to guarantee their spot in the top three.
''The questions have moved past 'how do you think you'll go' to 'are you talking about finals','' Mowen said.
''The plan's certainly not to stumble at the final hurdle, it's to build momentum going forward.
''We've spoken a bit about trying to take our expectations to the next level, we need to squeeze as much as we can out of every performance.
''It's about trying to raise our expectations and the only way we're going to do that is if we start challenging each other. If we can keep pushing our game forward, I've said it all along, I believe this team can go all the way.''
The Brumbies are wary of an ambush from a Waratahs side which has lost its last six games in a row. Statistics suggests the Waratahs should win the clash between the bitter rivals.
But the Brumbies have built their resurgence on winning when everyone has written them off. Confidence is high in the squad as it attempts to end its Sydney hoodoo.
The Brumbies have won just once in Sydney since the start of Super Rugby in 1996. Despite leading the Australian conference, they boast just six Wallabies. The Waratahs are struggling to stay off the bottom of the conference, but they have 11 Test players in their starting XV.
The Tahs also win the experience battle with more than 1000 Super Rugby caps compared with the Brumbies' 600. But statistics mean little to the Brumbies, who could rise to second place on the ladder if the Cape Town Stormers lose to the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein tomorrow morning.
''I think we've known for a while the quality of this side,'' Mowen said. ''Since our game against the [Waikato] Chiefs [in round four] the belief has grown and we've known there has been something special here.
''I definitely notice there is a nervous energy around, but that's because all the guys are on the same page with what's on the line now.
''We've had that around all our big games and it's always helped us go on and perform.''
The battle for Wallabies spots will add spice to individual contests.
The Waratahs front row of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and the injured Sekope Kepu beat Brumbies trio Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Dan Palmer to take the starting spots in the Wallabies scrum. Just two players in the Waratahs back line are yet to taste international action. The Waratahs wingers and fullback boast more than 140 Test caps while the Brumbies' back three have fewer than 50 Super Rugby caps.
''I don't think it's about trying to show [Wallabies coach] Robbie [Deans] something or a battle for Test spots,'' White said. ''Palms isn't going out to prove anything … the bottom line is it's not about individuals or what you want to prove, it's about team performance.
''And it's about understanding where you fit in the group.
''If getting a crack at the incumbent front row motivates them, then great. But we're not going to isolate individual battles.''
Brumbies lock Peter Kimlin said the intensity had increased at training during ''Waratah week''.
''We're a different side this year and have broken some good records,'' Kimlin said. ''It's a massive tradition with Waratah week so guys always get up for that … everyone is excited to be here.
''Maybe the perception we're giving is that it's quiet, but this is a massive opportunity for us.''
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