Date: May 25 2012
The ACT Brumbies started the season as an unknown threat but coach Jake White says Queensland's crafty decision to delay its team naming puts his side in a ''position of strength'' for their crucial clash at Canberra Stadium.
Whether it's selection hijinks or strategy, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie yesterday opted to announce a 23-man squad instead of unveiling his starting XV for the defending Super Rugby champions' trip to Canberra.
The blockbuster match will likely decide which team finishes at the top of the Australian conference and earns a guaranteed spot in the finals.
Fitness question marks over Beau Robinson and Ben Lucas forced McKenzie to hold off on naming his team.
But White said the selection intrigue was a ''massive compliment'' to the Brumbies and their stunning Super Rugby revival.
''There's an Art of War book by Sun Tzu which says if your enemy reacts to you then you're in a position of strength. It's wonderful people are delaying things, taking their time and working things out according to our strength … that's a position of strength for us,'' White said.
''I don't know about [them being on] the back foot, I just think it's an indication of things have turned and the Brumbies are seen differently to what they were at the start of the season.''
The Brumbies were not expected to challenge the Reds as the best Australian team this season.
However, White has led his young team to the top of the ladder where it sits eight-points clear of Queensland.
The Brumbies are treating the contest like a finals match and captain Ben Mowen admitted he had to rein in the excitement at the start of the week.
Despite boasting experienced Wallabies Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander, Mowen is the only Brumby to have played in a Super Rugby final.
The clash with the Reds will be a dress rehearsal for the new-generation Brumbies as they attempt to break a seven-season finals drought.
Even if they lose they will still be in the race with Queensland to be Australia's No.1 ranked team.
But Mowen is confident the occasion and electric build up will not cripple the Brumbies' winning form.
''The excitement is definitely the highest I've seen it here,'' he said.
''Sometimes you get certain feelings and you can't explain why that is. If you could you would replicate it every week.
''I've certainly got an extremely good feeling about the way we've prepared this week.
''I like these weeks because you don't have to get guys up, the training is intense, everyone wants to be a part of it and they're desperate to prove themselves.
''All those things combined and the fact we're playing the Super Rugby champions at home … there are no more motivational factors left.''
While the Reds will wait until their final training session in Canberra to finalise their team, White made two changes to his side yesterday. Powerful No.8 Fotu Auelua has been left out of the game-day squad for the Reds clash.
Auelua was knocked out last week, but White said he planned to rest his destructive Samoan as part of his forwards rotation.
Peter Kimlin will start at blindside flanker, while Nic White has reclaimed the starting scrumhalf spot.
Auelua has been one of the Brumbies' best since making his Super Rugby debut last month.
White hopes the team will make up for Auelua's absence with extra height in the lineout.
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