The Western Force are adamant they have not arrived in Canberra to simply make up the numbers as they look to pull off a finals upset without "world class" outside centre Tevita Kuridrani.
Kuridrani will miss the Super Rugby AU finals after being slapped with a three-game ban for an ugly lifting tackle on Queensland counterpart Hunter Paisami.
It leaves Force coach Tim Sampson needing to fill a void in his back line for a must-win qualifying final against the ACT Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
The former Brumby was desperate to make a statement against his former club this weekend in a bid to propel the Force to their first grand final appearance.
Instead he will be forced to watch from afar, hit with a three-game suspension that will also keep him out of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman opener.
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A SANZAAR statement said Kuridrani's "act of foul play merited a low-end entry point of six weeks" in a suspension which could have wiped him out of the Australian finals and the Trans-Tasman competition.
But a good judicial record over a long career and the fact Kuridrani pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity saw the suspension sliced to three weeks.
Kuridrani's absence is a blow for a team entering as rank outsiders, however Sampson is adamant the Force can spring an upset after three nail-biters pushed them into the top three.
"Going in with three wins on the trot and winning them in tight circumstances, it obviously gives you belief," Sampson said.
"Finals footy traditionally are tight games, they're an arm-wrestle. We've won in different ways.
"Down in Melbourne, we defended for 20-plus phases at the end of the game there and got the result, we got the jackpot there. A week later against the [NSW] Waratahs, we attacked with ball in hand for 20-plus phases and got the result.
"We've won in different areas and different ways, and that's where that belief comes in.
"It's been that type of competition, it's very tight. You only have to be off your game slightly to be punished because all the teams have been very good throughout this competition."
Brumbies fullback Tom Banks expects the Force to come out firing.
"It would be really disappointing for them, [Kuridrani] is a world class player and he brings a lot in attack and defence," Banks said.
"The players they've got that will step in are no different, they pose the same sort of threats. For us, it's really focusing on our game and what we can bring to the table rather than focusing on him."
SUPER RUGBY AU QUALIFYING FINAL
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Western Force at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets from Ticketek. Broadcast: Live on Gem and Stan Sport.
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