ACT Brumbies lose to Pretoria Bulls but can still win title: Ben Mowen

ACT Brumbies lose to Pretoria Bulls but can still win title: Ben Mowen

PRETORIA: ACT Brumbies captain Ben Mowen has boldly declared winning the Super Rugby championship is "still at the forefront of our minds" despite a nightmare two-game tour of South Africa.

The Brumbies are adamant they have the resilience to stop an alarming form slump after suffering their biggest loss in three years when they were thrashed by the Pretoria Bulls 44-23 on Saturday morning Australian time.

The Brumbies' title hopes are on the brink of disaster after losing both games in South Africa, the 21-point loss to the Bulls going down as the club's equal worst defeat in the Republic since 1998 and the biggest overall loss since 2011.

They have just three games left to salvage their season, but they have surrendered the Australian conference lead for the first time since round five and tumbled to seventh after the Western Force's bonus-point win over the Johannesburg Lions on Saturday night.

"I don't think it matters which way you get to the finals, you just want to get there," Mowen said.


"The goal isn't to make the finals, the goal is to win the competition and that's still at the forefront of our minds.

"Whether we were in this position or not, you'd want to win the last three games anyway, so our path doesn't change. We just have to make sure we're up for the challenge.

"We're not going to get caught ladder watching."

Perhaps the most concerning point is the Brumbies have conceded 91 points in their past three losses against the Bulls, the Free State Cheetahs and the Canterbury Crusaders.

The NSW Waratahs are four points clear at the top of the Australian conference and have a game in hand on the Brumbies.

The Brumbies have won just one of their past four games and lack a clinical edge, but star centre Christian Lealiifano said the players were willing to fight for their title dream.

"The group is tough and resilient, we're trying to get back and play footy but it's just not happening," Lealiifano said.

"There's not long left in the comp, the next game is super important for us so we have to prepare accordingly. I feel like we're doing all the right things, but we need to find a way to click into gear."

The Brumbies were outplayed and out-enthused in Pretoria, behind 20-3 after just 25 minutes and leaking four tries in a woeful defensive effort.

Their discipline was also disappointing, gifting Bulls sharpshooter Jacques-Louis Potgieter a night of kicking practice with the flyhalf finishing with six penalties and two conversions.

The Brumbies tried to rally and scored two late tries, with Ben Mowen and Tevita Kuridrani crossing the line.

The Brumbies also played 20 minutes with 14 men after Matt Toomua was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle and hooker Josh Mann-Rea followed late in the second half for cynical play at the breakdown.

Loftus Versfeld was the stage for one of the Brumbies' greatest triumphs when they beat the Bulls in the semi-final last year, becoming the first visiting team win a playoff in Pretoria.

But the return trip on Saturday morning Australian time could go down as the match which cost the Brumbies any chance of winning the Super Rugby title.

"It was time for a little bit of payback," Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe said.

The Brumbies play the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium in a must-win contest on Saturday night before finishing their season against the Waratahs and Western Force.


A loss to the Rebels would all but end the Brumbies' finals goal. Fullback Jesse Mogg suffered a shoulder injury, but it is hoped he won't miss a game.

PRETORIA BULLS 44 (Jono Ross 2, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson tries; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 6 penalties; Jacques-Louis Potgieter 2, Handre Pollar conversions) bt ACT BRUMBIES 23 (Henry Speight, Ben Mowen, Tevita Kuridrani tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 penalties, conversions) at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday morning. Referee: Craig Joubert. Crowd: 16,463.

Chris Dutton

Chris Dutton is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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