The Brumbies may have to beat the Force in Canberra on Saturday to qualify for the quarter-finals, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Brumbies are level with the Waratahs on 39 log points heading into the last round, but lead the Australian conference because they have one more victory. But even if they don't need to win this match to scrape through to the playoffs, Stephen Larkham's men need to regain some confidence after suffering a demoralising 40-15 defeat last week against the Blues.
Tipping the scales in the Brumbies’ favour is that fact that they’ll know exactly what they have to do when their match kicks off on Saturday, as the Waratahs would have faced the Blues in Auckland on Friday. Should the Blues beat the Waratahs and deny the Tahs a losing bonus point, the Brumbies could afford to lose as well.
The Brumbies have struggled against foreign opposition, but a positive result would see them complete the season with a perfect record over the four other Aussies teams for the first time in their history.
The Force, whose players have underperformed on the field and behaved badly off it, have hit rock bottom and have nothing to play for.
Larkham has made one rotational change to the Brumbies lineup, with South African-born prop Ruan Smith starting his 50th Super Rugby game ahead of Ben Alexander, who drops to the bench. In the only swap to the Force team, South African Brynard Stander replaces the injured Angus Cottrell at blindside flank and Kane Koteka fills the void on the bench.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 11, Force 4, Draw 1
In Canberra: Brumbies 5, Force 2
STATS AND FACTS
– The Brumbies are aiming to become the first Australian team in the Super Rugby era to win all of their conference matches.
– The Brumbies have won eight and drawn one of their last 10 games against the Force including a current winning streak of five games.
– The Brumbies have won their last six games against Australian opposition, a seventh straight win would represent their longest such streak in Super Rugby history.
– The Force have lost their last three Super Rugby fixtures against Australian opposition; not since the opening round of the 2013 season have they lost more (four).
– The Force have averaged just 6.2 clean breaks per game this season, fewer than any other side, while only three teams have conceded more clean breaks than the Western Australia side (12.5).
– The Force (83%) and the Brumbies (78%) are two of just five sides to maintain a kick success rate of over 75% this season; the Force sit top of the rankings and are the only side to average fewer than one miss per game (0.7).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Brumbies||Christian Leafi'ifano (147)||Stephen Moore (7)||Aidan Toua (829)||Christian Leali'ifano (97)|
|Force||Peter Grant (58)||Luke Morahan (4)||Dane Haylett-Petty (1159)||Matt Hodgson (162)|
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Leali'ifano (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan (c), 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Rory Walton, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Photo: Morné de Klerk/Getty Images