The ACT Brumbies hope the momentum of a grand final win and a showdown with their bitter rivals can ignite support as they chase their biggest home crowd in almost 12 months.
Super Rugby AU's reigning champions have issued a call to arms for fans to back the Brumbies in their clash with the NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
The match marks the first time a major Canberra sporting venue has been elevated to full capacity since the Brumbies faced the Waratahs in front of 8417 on March 14 last year.
The coronavirus pandemic saw competitions suspended and crowds in Canberra were capped at 1500 for ultimately rising to 6000 for Brumbies games during last year's domestic competition.
The Brumbies had just one week to sell tickets after the ACT government lifted caps on crowds last Friday with club captain Allan Alaalatoa relishing the chance to play in front of home fans for the first time since September's grand final.
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A Canberra comeback means a return to the fortress, where the Brumbies are riding a six-game winning streak and have won 16 of their past 17 games.
"It's exciting to be back at home, and the opportunity to get 100 per cent capacity is exciting. We're looking forward to playing back here and hopefully we get a good turnout," Alaalatoa said.
"Tah week is always special, just as its own occasion, understanding our games last year, one in Sydney went down to the wire, understanding they are looking to come out here and do their community proud.
"They are looking to rectify their performance from last week. The rivalry is always there, and that's something as a Brumby you're always proud to be a part of.
"We just need to make sure we get our end sorted and we've done that all week so we will come out firing."
While Alaalatoa and his teammates are keen to make their mark on the field, the club has already done so off the paddock with a Brumbies mural unveiled inside Canberra Stadium on Friday.
The Brumbies commissioned local artist and designer Geoff Filmer to paint the wall on the south west corner of the stadium.
The hosts enter as heavy favourites but Alaalatoa is wary of a wounded Waratahs outfit missing captain Jake Gordon, Will Harris, Joey Walton and Izaia Perese.
NSW coach Rob Penney has called on a pair of abrasive ball runners in Lachie Swinton and Tepai Moeroa in the hope they can get the Waratahs over the advantage line.
"Physicality is going to be a big point of the game. They're bringing Lachie Swinton back in, and Tepai back in the centres, so two of their dominant ball-carriers," Alaalatoa said.
"We've got to make sure we're physical up front, and our boys in the backline are on like they were last week. We just need to go out and be physical. You need to be dominant up front.
"That's what we're looking forward to doing, and our boys have prepared well this week. We've got an opportunity to be back home in front of our fans and in front of hopefully 100 per cent capacity.
"Hopefully we get a lot of people out here so we can put some smiles on faces and make sure they're proud of us and our performance."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND TWO
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Broadcast: Live on Gem and Stan Sport. Tickets from Ticketek.
ACT Brumbies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Connal McInerney, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Jahrome Brown, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Mack Hansen, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Harry Lloyd, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Tom Cusack, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
NSW Waratahs squad: 1. Angus Bell, 2. Tom Horton, 3. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 4. Sam Caird, 5. Jack Whetton, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 7. Carlo Tizzano, 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jack Grant, 10. Will Harrison, 11. James Ramm, 12. Tepai Moeroa, 13. Alex Newsome (c), 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 15. Jack Maddocks. Replacements: 16. David Poreki, 17. Te Tera Faulkner, 18. Sio Tatola, 19. Jeremy Williams, 20. Hugh Sinclair, 21. Henry Robertson, 22. Tane Edmed, 23. Triston Reilly.
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