Embarrassed Brumbies refusing to panic
July 14, 2013
Scott Fardy and the Brumbies had little reason to smile in Perth © Getty Images
Brumbies coach Jake White hopes his team's horror showing against Western Force will be a wake-up call ahead of the Super Rugby finals. The Brumbies made 17 handling errors, combined with a series of inexplicable errors by key players, to consign themselves to a shock 21-15 loss to the lowly Force in round 20 at nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday night.
The Brumbies would have been rewarded with second spot on the ladder and a home semi-final had they secured a bonus-point victory against the Force, but they now need to win three finals games - including two on the road - if they are to snare this year's title. Their quest begins in Canberra next Sunday afternoon, when they take on South Africa's unpredictable Cheetahs in Super Rugby Qualifier B. Victory will see the Australian Conference champions travel to Pretoria for a daunting into a daunting semi-final against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld a week later.
White conceded his players were off their game mentally against the Force, but he backed them to return to their clinical best against the Cheetahs. "We know we can't get any worse than we were tonight," White said. "It's going to be a wake-up call now. We have now obviously got the low road in that we've got to play three games if we want to win the championship. But it's not all doom or gloom. We know we've played a lot of good rugby this year. We can't be worrying about the fact [of whether] this is going to dent any confidence."
The Brumbies and Cheetahs haven't met this year, but the Australian Conference champions boast four wins from their past five encounters against the Bloemfontein-based side - including by one point when the teams last met in Canberra in 2012.
The Brumbies haven't featured in the post-season since winning the title in 2004, but they remain quietly confident of going all the way despite their flop against the Force. Jesse Mogg and Matt Toomua must regain their mojo if they are to achieve their goal of winning the title, however, as both players endured a shocker in Perth, the fly-half committing the most basic of errors when he did not ground the ball after catching a wayward shot at goal by Force fullback Jayden Hayward.
Sam Wykes and the Force enjoyed a night out against the Brumbies © Getty Images
Lappies Labuschagne is but one Cheetahs player the Brumbies must beware © Getty Images
"Mentally we were just that little bit off and at this level you can't do that," Brumbies captain Ben Mowen said. "The Force won the attitude and work rate areas ... it was probably a good night to have in terms of you can't just assume you can turn up and it will happen. So much of this year has been really good. We're not going to change things now, it's just about mentally being in the right frame of mind. Maybe we were guilty of thinking it would just click."
White said: "We were probably guilty of thinking about [the finals] and I guess we're just thankful we can get away with a loss here. If you're going to lose a weekend, you'd rather lose this one. It's going to be a wake-up call, we know we can't get any worse."
The Cheetahs have enjoyed their best season to date, with a strong all-round attacking game and solid defence, and they will be aiming to make their maiden finals appearance memorable. They head to Canberra fully rested after having the bye in the final home-and-away round of the competition.
Western Force outplayed the Brumbies in all aspects of the game in Perth (video available only in Australia)
Saturday, July 20
Sunday, July 21
Week 2 - July 26/27:
(2) Bulls v Highest-ranked winner from Week 1
Week 3 - August 3:
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