Brumbies will be 'genuine' champs
August 2, 2013
Henry Speight and the Brumbies are on the cusp of writing history © Getty Images
The Brumbies will make history in the Super Rugby final against the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday, when they will become the first team since the conference system was introduced in 2011 to have played every other team in a season.
The Brumbies didn't play the Cheetahs or the Chiefs in the regular season, but they eliminated the South African side in the Super Rugby qualifiers and coach Jake White welcomes the fact they now face the ladder-topping Chiefs in the final in Hamilton.
"That's exactly what I think the organisers wanted to have, and even though it's a conference system, you can genuinely call yourself champions," White said.
The three-conference system schedules double the number of derby fixtures with each them then playing just eight international games in the regular season, after the previous round-robin system saw every team play each other once before the finals. New Zealand and South African fans argued that a weaker Australian conference gifted Queensland Reds the minor premiership in 2011, and an advantageous home finals run, but the Brumbies put paid to that theory in finishing third overall this year despite topping the Australian conference.
As a result, they had to travel to Pretoria for their Super Rugby semi-final against the No.2-ranked Bulls, having beaten the Cheetahs in Canberra, and now they must beat the top-ranked Chiefs in New Zealand. No team in Super Rugby history has won finals in all three countries to claim a season's title, and the enormity of the task is not lost on assistant Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
"Last week was a massive challenge as it doesn't get any bigger than [the Bulls] at Loftus Versfeld," Larkham said. "And now we are in New Zealand to play the Chiefs, who just knocked out the Crusaders - arguably the form team coming into the finals."
The Chiefs have named an unchanged team on Thursday as they aim to send departing players Craig Clarke, Lelia Masaga, Toby Smith, Richard Kahui and Brendon Leonard off as back-to-back champions, but White believes his Brumbies are to the difficult task.
"This Brumbies team has exceeded all expectations," White said. "It never ceases to amaze me that, when they get a challenge, they present themselves perfectly."
Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby Final between the Chiefs and the Brumbies on Saturday, August 3, from 7pm (NZT), 5pm (EST), 7am (GMT)
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