Planet Rugby

Preview: Brumbies v Chiefs

17th July 2014 14:53

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Saturday's first Super Rugby Qualifier is a rematch of last year's Final, with the Brumbies hosting the Chiefs in Canberra.

Let's go back to less than three months ago, when these two sides met in the exact same fixture and the Brumbies ran out 41-23 winners.

That day the Chiefs were without Aaron Cruden through injury, after the All Black fly-half had started the year in blinding form for his franchise.

Those 23 points for the Chiefs in the end were regarded as slightly flattering, given that the Brumbies were 36-9 up with ten minutes to go.

Five tries from the home side, including doubles from Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani, showcased Brumbies rugby at its best.

The Chiefs were plundered at the breakdown and slipped off tackles while the Brumbies held firm. They also sorely missed Cruden, with Gareth Anscombe unable to spark the same play from his backs as the All Blacks does so well.

You can guarantee the Chiefs won't be as susceptible in either of those contact areas this time around.

Tanerau Latimer's comments this week about rising to the occasion of knockout rugby underlined all you need to know about the back-to-back champions, who have won their last two matches to secure a Wildcard spot.

Cruden is back. Liam Squire has emerged at number eight. Jamie Mackintosh is using all of his own experience at loosehead to good effect. The Chiefs are stronger than back in April, undoubtedly.

But is that enough? The last time these two sides faced off the Brumbies were spurred on for revenge after the agony of the 2013 Final. Putting 40 points on the champions arguably settled that score.

Regardless, if the Brumbies can play to their peak then backed by a Canberra crowd this contest is there for the taking.

The major weakness perhaps is that while the Chiefs have their best players back, Stephen Moore is absent.

Josh Mann-Rea has stepped in admirably to run the Brumbies line-out, and he's spoilt for choice in terms of jumpers with Sam Carter, Scott Fardy and Ben Mowen all present.

Mann-Rea too is far from a novice at 33, thriving after finally getting his opportunity. But he has rarely started and never in a game of such importance. Replacing Moore is not an easy if not impossible task.

The Brumbies line-out has been one of the best all year (88.4 percent success), while the Chiefs have one of the worst (80.7). Even with the Chiefs not having the best scrum (85 percent), the Brumbies sit alone miles off the rest of the pack (76 percent, the closest being 84.)

Whichever side can shore up their set-piece deficiency and then exploit the opposition's weakness will be key.

Curiously also, considering the Brumbies penchant for attacking flair, they have produced exactly 100 fewer offloads than the Chiefs - 217 to 117.

So who will emerge on top? Let's look at the recent results.

Form: Inconsistency has plagued the Brumbies since winning seven matches in eight games, with last year's finalists unable to secure back to back wins and losing four of their last seven games. At home this year they have an 88 win percentage record. The Chiefs on the other hand won their last two matches but lost the three fixtures before those successes. A run of one win in six games earlier this season - which included two draws - has been their downfall.

Previous Results:
2014: Brumbies won 41-23 in Canberra
2013: Chiefs won 27-22 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 29-22 in Hamilton
2011: Brumbies won 28-20 in Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 30-23 in Canberra

Prediction: Home advantage has clearly held sway in the last five encounters between these two, so why think differently? Indeed,the Brumbies are the odd-on favourites to advance to the semi-finals.

Christian Lealiifano's kicking has to be perfect and if his radar is off early on, Nic White must take over. Cruden after all will not waste similar chances. Both sides are capable of scoring tries and have big-name players made for the occasion, but both are also flawed.

It's Fardy v Messam, Toomua v Cruden, Kuridrani v Nanai-Williams. This one is close to call. Brumbies by five.

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 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 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe.

Chiefs: 15 Dwayne Sweeney, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahroni Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Tom Marshall.

Date: Saturday, July 19
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kickoff: 19:40 local (10:40 BST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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