The Brumbies will hope to bounce back from their loss to the Rebels when they take on the Blues in Canberra on Friday.
Last week's defeat in Melbourne hurt the Brumbies as they were hoping to take a stranglehold on the Australian conference. Fortunately for them, the Waratahs could not capitalise on their loss as they were beaten by the Sharks in Durban.
This means the Brumbies, who enter the game knowing they have a much-needed bye week in the following round, have another opportunity to put daylight between themselves and their closest rivals in Australia, with the Waratahs taking on the Stormers at Newlands, again later in the day.
Losing hooker Stephen Moore is possibly the blow they did not want as the consistent front-row forward is second on their tackles made and carries leaderboard. Furthermore, his lineout throwing is in the 90% bracket while his scrummaging would have hurt a poor Blues set piece that has won just 71% of its own put-ins. That goes alongside an 80% lineout success, so you can see why John Kirwan's backline hasn't had enough ball.
Despite their set-piece discrepancies, the Blues are still very much in the mix for a play-off spot and also the New Zealand conference due to the Chiefs dropping points in Pretoria. One main reason why has been the form of Luke Braid, who continues to be a superb link in the back row. His movement out of the starting XV due to an ongoing injury is as much a blow to the Blues as the absence of Moore is to their opponents.
Braid is expected to feature in the second half – when the Blues score almost twice as many tries – so if the Brumbies continue with their mid-game slumps, expect a visiting onslaught led by the likes of George Moala and Charles Piutau that could set up a grandstand finish to what will be an entertaining contest in Canberra.
It could all boil down to which team has sufficiently ironed out its increasingly costly flaws.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Siliva Siliva, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Christian Lealiifano.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Jordan Manihera, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Francis Saili, 23 Benji Marshall.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images