Brumbies have tools to stun Bulls - Jake White
July 22, 2013
Christian Lealiifano was among the Brumbies' best performers against the Cheetahs © Getty Images
Ben Alexander salutes the Brumbies faithful © Getty Images
Brumbies coach Jake White is looking forward to the Super Rugby semi-final against three-time champions the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria after his team's dramatic 15-13 victory over the Cheetahs in a sudden-death qualifier at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
The Brumbies survived a last-minute missed conversion attempt from Cheetahs fly-half Riaan Smit, whose kick, which would have taken the match to extra-time had it been successful, rebounded off the left post and sent the Brumbies hurriedly packing their bags for an early-morning departure.
"It doesn't get bigger for this group of players than a semi-final at Loftus Versfeld," George Smith said. "I've heard it's a sell-out crowd of 50-60,000 people. They have an unbelievable track record when it comes to playing finals football, and it's going to be a massive ask. We take a lot of confidence out of this win tonight, and travelling to South Africa as a group and spending some more time together is a real plus."
White was quick to praise the vanquished Cheetahs, who went within a whisker of heading into an extra 20 minutes with momentum and looking the fresher and stronger of the two teams.
"We got lucky with that kick at the end there but when I look back on that game now, we played a game last week and we weren't good," he said. "We had another hit out tonight and we will take confidence from the last two weeks that our graph has gone up, and I have no doubt that the fact we played last week helped us because we got a nice start and we got some things right again.
"Take nothing away from Free State [Cheetahs]; they were outstanding. They have been a good side this year and I always knew it was going to go to the wire and to the 80 minutes. Luckily we got through the other side of that advantage line."
Such was the Brumbies' control of the match until the dramatic finale that White thought the game was done and dusted five minutes from full-time, when the Brumbies survived a surge, but the Cheetahs battered away at the tryline until Rayno Benjamin crossed in the corner in the final seconds.
Jake White did not see Rayno Benjamin's try coming © Getty Images
"I was in the box with about four minutes to go and we got the scrum and I couldn't see them scoring from there," White said. "I just thought, worst-case scenario we may concede a penalty. When I got down into the tunnel and there was a lineout on the 25-metre line, I thought, 'well, that's it, we will just defend and make sure we don't put numbers into the breakdown', but again that shows its finals footy and they go and score with about a minute left on the clock.
"We spoke about it this week: finals footy is played for 80 minutes, and we had to play for 81 minutes to get the result."
"It's a South African side," he said. "We know what they are like. They play with their forwards and they have a kicking 10 in Morne Steyn. So we have no doubt that it will be the same kind of bruising encounter, but we showed when we played them here this year that we can beat them. So there is no reason why, if we prepare properly, we can't give ourselves a good crack of beating them."
The Brumbies survived a stern challenge from the Cheetahs (video available only in Australia)
Super Rugby semi-finals
1-Chiefs v 4-Crusaders, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
2-Bulls v 3-Brumbies, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Super Rugby final
Winner of the two semi-finals, with the highest-ranked team to host the match
The Brumbies can't afford to gift opportunities to Morne Steyn © Getty Images