First it was revenge.

Then relief.

But the Brumbies also admit to feeling surprise ahead of Saturday night's crunch Super Rugby clash with the Queensland Reds as they close in on the Australian conference crown at least a year ahead of schedule.

The Brumbies have been thirsting for the Reds' blood since their disappointing 20-13 loss to the defending champions in Brisbane.

And they will be backing themselves to get some payback at Canberra Stadium this weekend after form flanker Michael Hooper dodged a lifting tackle ban on Tuesday.

However, Brumbies centre Andrew Smith admits his side is still pinching itself at having the Australian conference crown in sight - up to two years earlier than expected after the no-frills squad underwent major off-season rebuilding under new coach Jake White.

The Brumbies sit eight points clear of the Reds and can all but clinch a first place finish in the conference - and the home final that goes with it - with victory on Saturday.

''We knew we would be competitive [but] we didn't really expect to be doing as well as we are,'' Smith said.

''We thought this [success] would be maybe a year or two off.

''Our success is a testament to the players and coaches who have bought into the system.''

Hooper's availability has set up an intriguing duel with Reds flanker Liam Gill, the player he's battling for promotion as Wallabies star David Pocock's understudy.

White paid the price for leaving Hooper on the bench in the Easter clash as Gill and Beau Robinson combined to dominate the breakdown battle and help seal a win that still eats away at the Brumbies.

''Definitely. That was probably the worst game we have played this year,'' Smith said.

''We have watched tapes of it and definitely learned from it. We are a much better team now.

''This is now a massive game for us, like a grand final.''

The Brumbies are wary of Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper after his successful first-half return from knee surgery in last round's big win over the Lions. But Smith believed Cooper's opposite number Zack Holmes would also be one to watch after a spectacular last-round run-on debut.

Holmes scored 22 of the Brumbies' 37 points in the win over Wellington.

''It was a big blow when we lost Christian Lealiifano but Zack Holmes stepped in and did a great job for us,'' Smith said.

''We always had confidence in him. It was just a matter of fitting in and he did it with ease.'' AAP