The Brumbies haven’t appeared in the knockout stages of Super Rugby since they took the title back in 2004, and they head into this year’s do-or-die match against the Cheetahs after a month off followed by a shocking defeat to the Force in Perth. The Cheetahs, making their first ever appearance in the latter stages of Super Rugby, undeniably have the toughest road to travel in order to achieve glory. A fairytale ending for the men from Bloemfontein would require, firstly, a victory in Canberra, followed by a win over the Chiefs in Hamilton, before going on to take down either the Bulls in Pretoria, the Crusaders in Christchurch, or the Reds in Brisbane, depending on how things pan out.
To Win (80mins)
Brumbies (-7.5) 9/10
Cheetahs (+7.5) 9/10
Brumbies coach Jake White has confirmed that Wallaby veteran George Smith will start this weekend after playing off the bench last week against the Force. With 111 test caps under his belt, the wealth of experience he brings with him is a huge asset for the home side, who must now try to forget last week’s dismal performance in Perth and focus all their energy on Saturday’s clash. Jake White is holding the rest of his cards close to chest, refusing to reveal any other team selections early but indicated that scrumhalf Nic White may make a return after sitting out with injury since Round 17, suffering a fractured collarbone during their game against the Rebels. He will undergo a fitness test later this week before a final decision is made.
Naka Drotske is holding off on the announcement of his final team selections, but I would be both surprised and disappointed if influential workhorse Heinrich Brussow is not named to start in his menacing position on the openside flank. After an explosive entrance into international rugby that saw the youngster quickly become a national hero, thanks in no small part to the massive role he played in the Springboks’ majestic back-to-back defeats over the All Blacks and Wallabies back in 2009, the bruiser from Bloem has had to come to terms with the fact that Heyneke Meyer has made it unpleasantly clear that he will play no role in the Springbok setup for the foreseeable future. At the very least he deserves a crack at upstaging the world class George Smith in Canberra this weekend in what could be his last opportunity to run out for the Cheetahs before he sets off to Japan at the end of the season.
VERDICT: Cheetahs (+7.5) 9/10
The Brumbies, with their impermeable defence and well executed kicking game, head into this game as clear favourites. Understandably so, with home ground advantage and opposition with no experience when it comes to the business end of the competition. The Brumbies will have only themselves to blame if they fail to advance any further in this year’s competition. But the Cheetahs will be running out in Canberra fuelled by the faith and passion that got them this far. And the Brumbies, while near unstoppable when on song, have shown an uncanny ability to fall apart when caught off guard out in the middle. On the few occasions that it has happened this season (against the Stormers, Kings, Waratahs and Force) they have been incapable of putting the pieces back together in time to salvage the match. If they can dominate the territory and possession from the kickoff they will have no problem claiming the home win, if not we could very well see an upset in Canberra this weekend. The Brumbies by 5, but the Cheetahs on the ‘cap.