Saturday Serve

Israel Folau or fireworks? The Wallabies star will provide plenty of his own.

Israel Folau or fireworks? The Wallabies star will provide plenty of his own. Photo: Keisuke Osawa

How do you top a crowd of 100,000, more than 12,000 fireworks and an 18-minute show on Lake Burley Griffin?

Easy – strap some sparklers to Israel Folau's boots and watch an Australian rugby classic at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

OK, so the pyrotechnics at the ACT Brumbies blockbuster against the NSW Waratahs might be limited to a few bungers in the car park.

But at least a game of rugby won't send your pets scampering down the street.

The Brumbies face a battle for crowd numbers when they go head to head with one of Canberra's biggest events – Skyfire.

The Brumbies-Waratahs game should attract more than 20,000 fans with 26 Wallabies going into battle and cross-code superstar Folau keen to add to his five tries from two games.

Instead, between 15,000 and 18,000 looks more realistic. Disappointing for the biggest Super Rugby game in Canberra this year.

The Brumbies are banking on some on-field fireworks, despite NSW coach Michael Cheika saying his team won't do anything "rash".

Almost half of Canberra's population will be at the rugby or Skyfire.

Why would you choose rugby over fireworks? Simple  –  to avoid a neighbourhood search for your pets the next morning or a trip to the RSPCA to find them.

Still not convinced? How about the Dublin "dobber", Pat "Chuck Norris" McCabe and try-scoring machine Folau?


Rumours out of Sydney tried to paint Ben Mowen as a dibber-dobber and, apparently, his Wallabies teammates want payback.

We're not talking about tattling on the players who didn't finish all their vegetables. Nope, this is much more serious. We're talking about the Wallabies players who missed their bed time in Europe at the end of last year.

The Waratahs players who were out late didn't just get sent to their rooms, they were suspended for a Test.

Mowen was dragged into the saga this week with the suggestion he informed coach Ewen McKenzie. That suggestion has been rejected by Mowen and McKenzie.

But the dibber-dobber tale sets the scene for some on-field fireworks. And while Skyfire will last for just 18 minutes, there will be 80 minutes of explosions at Canberra Stadium.


No, Folau won't be wearing sparklers on the back of his boots. It's a shame, he'd probably be easier to catch.

But the former NRL and AFL player has set a remarkable try-scoring pace in the Waratahs' first two games this season.

Folau has scored five tries in two games, having touched the ball 27 times. That's one try every five times he touches the ball. Not bad.

Unfortunately for the Brumbies, Folau has a bit more stamina than a few shots being fired in the air.


"How many push-ups can Pat McCabe do? All of them."

Yep, that's right, Brumbies star Pat McCabe has his own Chuck Norris-style facts now.

Mowen compared McCabe to Norris after his starring role against the Wellington Hurricanes last week, just six days after fearing his career was over because of a third broken neck.

It prompted his teammates to come up with some McCabe facts in a Sydney newspaper.

Ben Alexander: “Pat McCabe’s squeeze is so strong he has to scrape his toothpaste off the roof.”

Andrew Smith: “Pat McCabe is so tough he blocks punches with his face.”

McCabe is one of the most courageous players in Super Rugby. He has broken his neck twice since November 2012.

An honourable mention also has to go to former Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles, who is returning to Canberra for the first time.

Hoiles spent three years out with an Achilles problem, but has made a comeback with the Waratahs.


The Waratahs are being hyped up. Again.

They've played two matches and won convincingly, scoring bonus-point victories against the Western Force and the Queensland Reds.

They're fast-paced style and attacking intent is a treat to watch when they get it right.

But are they the real Super Rugby deal? The clash against the Brumbies will be their biggest test.

The Brumbies got off to a slow start, losing to the Reds in round one, bouncing back against the Force and then securing a bonus-point win against the Wellington Hurricanes.

The Waratahs have scored 10 tries in two games and the Brumbies have eight tries from three.

It sets up the biggest match between the teams since 2010.


NSW and ACT teams have never seen eye to eye.

The hatred started to heat up in 1994 when the ACT Kookaburras beat NSW for the first time 44-28.

Since then there's been bad blood.


Remember all those cold, winter nights at Canberra Stadium watching the Brumbies or the Raiders?

The forecast temperature is 27 degrees on Saturday night with only a slight chance of rain.

Would you rather stand in the rain watching a few (thousand) explosions at Skyfire? Or have a beer in the stands at Canberra Stadium, enjoying the weather for once.

Footy fans will have to wait a decade before there's a new stadium with a roof to protect them from the chill.

So when the temperature is above single digits during footy season, it's time to pack the stands.