16 June 2023

'We won’t be overawed': the Brumbies are ready to rewrite history in Hamilton against the Chiefs

| Tim Gavel
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The Brumbies at training

The Brumbies’ final training session on Thursday (15 June) before the semi-final game against the Chiefs. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Observing the Brumbies’ training this week in the lead-up to Saturday’s semi-final against the Chiefs, I can’t help but say that it has been far from perfect.

Steve Larkham described it as messy with malfunctioning lineouts in one session and mistakes created by the windy conditions in the final training run in Canberra on Thursday.

Steve Larkham

Steve Larkham. Photo: Tim Gavel.

That was followed by a bus trip to Sydney, before a plane to New Zealand arriving around midnight, before a three-hour bus trip to Hamilton.

Despite this, I get the impression Larkham wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The theory is that it has prepared his side for any adversity on Saturday night. After all, in the heat of battle in New Zealand in a semi-final, there is potential for plenty to go wrong.

Larkham’s line-up is close to unchanged, but he does have Tom Hooper coming in on the flank while Jack Debreczeni has retained his place at fly-half.

Jack Debreczeni. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Jack Debreczeni has retained his post at fly-half. Photo: Tim Gavel.

This means there will be kicking and more kicking with a focus on field position.

‘X’ factor Corey Toole returns on the bench and could provide a decisive injection late in the game against a tiring defence.

The Brumbies’ ability to break the Chiefs’ defence, which is the best in the competition, will also be a factor.

The Brumbies gave it a good crack last time they met, throwing 60-plus phases at their opponent’s 22.

On that night in May at GIO, the Brumbies only crossed for three tries, going down 31-21.

Mind you, in the end, the Brumbies’ defence won the quarter-final against the Hurricanes last weekend.

The Great Wall of Brumbies withstood six minutes of relentless attack from a team that had crossed for more tries than any other in this year’s competition.

READ ALSO To beat the Chiefs, the Brumbies need to put the boot in

The elephant in the room, of course, is the inability of Australian teams to win finals in New Zealand.

In fact, no Australian team has ever won a Super Rugby finals match in New Zealand. And there have been a few, including the Brumbies 27-22 loss to the Chiefs in the 2013 final.

You can also add into this equation the three losses suffered by the Brumbies on the road this season, although the asterisk is that the defeats to the Crusaders and the Force took place while the Brumbies rested their Wallabies players.

For his part, Larkham has shown none of the edginess commonly associated with coaches in the days leading into a final.

He has emphasised the importance of continuity and confidence in their processes to get the job done. This ensures they won’t be overawed by the occasion.

One thing is for sure: they are prepared for any possible scenario.

The Chiefs take on the Brumbies in Waikato today. Kick-off at 5:05 pm.

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