The Brumbies chances of playing in the SupeRugby finals are in their own hands heading into the final round of the regular season.
To progress to their first finals appearance in eight years they require just one competition point against a resurgent Auckland Blues side.
The Brumbies will need to focus on the game at hand even though the temptation to look ahead to the finals will be there. They have won both their games since SupeRugby resumed, although they have probably only had one decent half and that was the first half against the Force two weeks ago.
However, they did overcome their 10 year Sydney hoodoo against the Waratahs in an ugly game even though they were outscored two tries to one and were starved of possession but took a huge amount of confidence away from that win.
That has been the hallmark of the Brumbies season and the young side is gaining valuable experience in closing out the tight games. They have also been relying on their superior fitness at the back end of games and they used the break in the tournament to be reconditioned under the eye of athletic performance director Dean Benton.
On the other hand, the Blues have been one of the big disappointments in 2012 despite their impressive roster. The inclusion of All Blacks Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu had many tipping them to be near the top of the New Zealand conference.
But they find themselves at the bottom of the conference after a disastrous season that sees Pat Lam fighting for his coaching career at the Blues after a turbulent 2012.
Such is the importance of continuing in his role with the Blues, Lam will undergo an interview for the 2013 head coaching role on Friday before joining up with the squad which is hardly an ideal preparation.
For one of the few times this year Lam has been able to name an impressive front row with Charlie Famuina to join Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock and is one area they will look to target. Injuries have decimated the squad and Brumbies players and fans will breathe a sigh of relief that devastating runner Rene Ranger won’t be playing. With rain forecast in the lead up to the match, a forwards battle could be on the cards but the Blues would need a monumental from the whole team to consider themselves any chance of an upset win.
The Brumbies have made 1 major change with Wallbies winger Joe Tomane returning after injuring his ankle in the lead up to the Brisbane Welsh test. His inclusion means Jesse Mogg moves back to fullback with Robbie Coleman moving back to the bench. The other change is on the bench with Fotu Auelua returning from a hamstring injury and will take the place of Ita Vaea.
Brumbies: 15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Joe Tomane, 10. Zack Holmes, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen (c), 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander.
Res: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Ruaidhri Murphy, 18. Leon Power, 19. Fotu Auelua, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Tevita Kuridrani, 22. Robbie Coleman.
Blues: 15: Charles Piutau, 14. Lachie Munro, 13. Francis Saili, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hadleigh Parkes, 10. Michael Hobbs, 9. Piri Weepu, 8. Luke Braid, 7. Daniel Braid, 6. Chris Lowrey, 5. Steven Luatua, 4. Liaki Moli, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 2. Keven Mealamu, 1. Tony Woodcock.
Res: 16. Tom McCartney, 17. Tevita Mailua, 18. Andrew van der Heijden, 19. Peter Saili, 20. Alby Mathewson, 21. Orene Ai’i, 22. Sherwin Stowers.
This match will be the first of six SupeRugby games on Saturday with the kick off taking place at 3:30pm. The match will also mark Stephen Moore’s 100th SupeRugby game and since there is a bye in club rugby a good crowd should head out to Canberra Stadium to support the local team.
Referee: Jonathon White (NZ)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Aus), Julian Pritchard (Aus)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Aus)
Pat McCabe v. Ma’a Nonu. These two players bring a very similar style of game – run forwards at any cost and get their team over the advantage line and whoever does his job best in this area will give their side the best chance of victory.
The Fearless Prediction
The Brumbies finals destiny is in their own hands and as long as they focus on themselves they won’t have to rely on other results going their way. They play a simple game plan and there is no need to vary that this late in the season against the under performing Blues.
Brumbies by 12.