Stephen Moore at a Brumbies fan session at the Canberra Centre on Wednesday. Photo: Graham Tidy
The statistics are against them but injured Wallabies captain Stephen Moore is adamant the ACT Brumbies are better placed to win the Super Rugby title this season than they were 12 months ago, even without two Test skippers.
The Brumbies are ranked in the bottom half of a long list of Super Rugby statistics, including the worst goal-kicking accuracy in the competition, the worst scrum success rate and the fewest turnovers at the breakdown.
But Moore says the Brumbies have evolved after losing the grand final to the Waikato Chiefs last year, declaring the absence of two Wallabies captains won't affect the team's title credentials.
Two of Australia's best players - Moore and David Pocock - will be watching from the stands as the Brumbies play the Chiefs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Their respective knee reconstructions delivered a massive blow to the Brumbies' season, but Moore is confident ACT has the depth to go all the way.
"In terms of our game style, we've developed. We run a bit more from our own half when we see opportunities," Moore said.
"It doesn't mean you're flippant with the way you play, but we use our opportunities a bit more. Last year we were a bit more programmed in our own half, that worked for us.
"But you've got to develop your game and we're going to have to do it again next year."
The Chiefs haven't won in Canberra since 2008 and have only beaten the Brumbies at home three times in Super Rugby history.
But the two-time defending champions charged home in the grand final last year to come from behind to beat the Brumbies 27-22 in Hamilton.
Pocock has missed the past two finals series after suffering successive knee injuries.
Moore played in his first Super Rugby finals campaign last year, but a cruel torn anterior cruciate ligament just two minutes into his first Test as Wallabies captain last month has prematurely ended his year.
Losing a world-class hooker and one of the best openside flankers in international rugby would be a debilitating blow to most teams.
But Moore believes the Brumbies have the depth to cover injury losses, with former coal miner Josh Mann-Rea thrust into the hooker role. The finals clash against the Chiefs is just the second starting appearance of the 33-year-old's career.
"I dealt with [missing the finals] early in the injury, I try to be positive," Moore said.
"If you sit around kicking stones, it's going to be a long nine months. I know what the situation is and I'm fully supportive of the boys.
"It's hard on game day, but there are plenty of guys who have been through this. We've worked hard on when we get injuries, we've got the guys to cover.
"There's no point being in the finals if you don't think you can win. The fact [Moore and Pocock's absence] hasn't been mentioned is an indication it's not even a factor."
While the Brumbies have struggled in some areas, they have the best ruck success rate in the competition and concede the fewest turnovers at the breakdown.
Statistics can be twisted to suit either team and the Brumbies are determined to keep their championship hopes alive.
"We had to add to our game and I think we are, we're getting better," scrumhalf Nic White said.
"Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, we have to make the final to be more successful than last year and as a group we feel a little more comfortable and take opportunities to back ourselves."
BY THE NUMBERS
- The Brumbies' 63 per cent goal kicking is the worst in the competition.
- The Brumbies have the worst scrum success rate (76 per cent) in the competition.
- The Brumbies average the fewest turnovers won (5.8), but concede the least (6.2).
- The Chiefs concede more penalties and free kicks than any other team (13.1 per game).
- The Brumbies 96 per cent ruck rate is the best in the competition.
- The Brumbies have scored the most tries (22) in the competition from lineout possessions.