It's winner-takes-all in Friday's clash between the Brumbies and Western Force as these two Australian franchises clash at GIO Stadium.
It's winner-takes-all in Friday's clash between the Brumbies and Western Force as these two Australian sides clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
The Brumbies, refreshed from their bye week, have the benefit of home field advantage and also some of their key players returning at a vital time.
A win could well see them claim a home play-off game next weekend before the team would hit the road, looking to make it back-to-back finals.
There's no question the loss of hooker Stephen Moore to injury has seriously impacted their chances of going one better this year, while injuries to Matt Toomua and David Pocock were blows they could have done without. But, with the glass half full, their destiny is in their own hands.
In Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Scott Sio, Ben Mowen, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani they have men who consistently show up for their team-mates, and while recent form has been a concern, particularly on the road, six successive wins on home soil acts as a warm blanket to Brumbies supporters.
The visitors meanwhile bounced back from having their 'Force Field' demolished by the Blues with a 30-20 win over the Reds to restore confidence going into this meeting. That leaves them level on points (40) with Friday's hosts but below them on points difference.
What an achievement it would be if they were to secure knockout rugby for the first time and it is difficult not to applaud what Michael Foley has done with a team lacking in so-called stars. Of course they have the personality in Nick Cummins who deserves a shot at the title.
Characters all over the field have stood up and been counted and none more so than in the pack where loosehead prop Pek Cowan in enjoying a new lease of life, hooker Nathan Charles continues to show his worth and the form of number eight Ben McCalman keeps him ahead of Scott Higginbotham in the Wallaby ranks ahead of the Rugby Championship.
But here lies arguably their biggest challenge of the season at a critical time as the Force know it's win or bust time for their campaign. If they can upset the Brumbies' line-out in the same manner the Waratahs did a fortnight ago they have gone a long way to rationing the ball getting to the likes of Toomua, Kuridrani and their wider channels. That should lead to more of a forward oriented battle, and if so the “up the guts” Force could well pull this off.
Form: The Brumbies's six-straight victories on their home patch makes them favourites for the game but it will be interesting to see how they respond from their hammering at the Waratahs. Meanwhile, the Force have won three out of seven games on the road. The Brumbies won the reverse fixture in Perth in March, coming out on top 27-14. However, the final game of Super Rugby's regular season has traditionally provided a stumbling block for the Brumbies, with the Canberra-based side having won just one of them since 2005.
2014: Brumbies won 27-14 in Perth
2013: Force won 21-15 in Perth
2013: Brumbies won 41-7 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies 28-17 in Perth
2012: Brumbies won 19-17 in Canberra
Prediction: We just feel the force is a touch stronger with the visitors. Force by 2!
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Leon Power, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Ruaidhri Murphy, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe
Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (capt), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Dillyn Leyds/Sias Ebersohn.
Date: Friday, July 11
Kick-off: 19:40 local (10:40 BST, 09:40 GMT)
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner, Andrew Lees
TMO: Steve Leszczynski