Beating New Zealand teams is hard enough as it is, but missing two of your most influential players might require a modern-day miracle to cause a major upset and topple the defending-champions Crusaders.
Brumbies flanker David Pocock will miss the match with a calf strain and co-captain Christian Lealiifano will be rested for another week, with both leaders set to watch the match from the stands on Saturday night.
The Brumbies are hoping to beat the Crusaders for the first time since 2009 and coach Dan McKellar believes his team is capable of ending the 35-game Australian rugby losing streak against the best team in the competition.
“We’re going out there to win. That’s how we approach every game,” McKellar said.
“The last time we played a New Zealand side, the Highlanders in Dunedin, we were well in that game. It’s the critical moments and we will be well in the game on Saturday night.”
“You’ve just got to make sure you put the opposition under pressure, win those moments and take the opportunities you get because they are few and far between.”
“We have got to make sure we limit their opportunities as well. We have got a plan and we need to be disciplined in executing it.”
A slow start cost the Brumbies in last Sunday’s 25-20 loss against the Jaguares, and McKellar knows the team needs to rectify their intent.
“We have got to start well this week, we have to rectify our starts and we don’t want to be down 13-0 against the Crusaders,” he said.
“We have got to make sure that we are the team with the intent and putting them under pressure early.”
McKellar made a couple of changes to the starting side, with Tom Cusack shifting into the No. 7 role, while veteran Andrew Smith has been injected into the back line.
There are also several changes on the bench, with prop Ben Alexander to add a spark from the bench.
“Ben [Alexander] is back, and just brings us some experience. We feel like we’ve lacked a little bit of experience off the bench in the last 20 minutes in games, and he certainly brings plenty of that,” McKellar said.
“148th cap I think it is so he gets his chance this week.”
McKellar said that the Brumbies mindset needs to change from being defensive and stop playing within themselves.
“You’ve got to go out there to challenge them and put them under pressure. It’s sport and you’ve got to put your opponent under pressure. You’re not going to do that by sitting back on your heels,” McKellar said.
“You’ve got to have that mindset and belief that you are going out there to pressure the opposition.”
“When the game is in the balance in the last 20 minutes, that’s when the really good teams rise and go to another level. We’ve got to understand that.”
Brumbies vs Crusaders at GIO Stadium, Saturday 7:45 pm. Buy your tickets at Ticketek.
Brumbies: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Andrew Smith, 11. Chance Peni, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. Tom Cusack, 6. Blake Enever, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Folau Faingaa, 1. Scott Sio. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Lolo Fakaosilea, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23. Andy Muirhead.
Crusaders: 15. David Havili, 14. Israel Dagg, 13. Tim Bateman, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. Seta Tamanivalu, 10. Mike Delany, 0. Bryn Hall, 8. Jordan Taufua, 7. Matt Todd, 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 4. Sam Whitelock, 4. Scott Barrett, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Tim Perry. Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Luke Romano, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Manasa Mataele.