The ‘Super Star’ CA Brumbies take on the Western Force on Friday night at the new home ground of the Force, ME Bank Stadium, in what is shaping as an blockbuster match to start their respective 2010 Super 14 seasons. The return of Matt Giteau and Josh Valentine to their former stomping ground has lost some of the excitement due to Giteau’s quadricep injury, which will more than likely rule him out.
The Brumbies off season recruits have been well documented and most experts are tipping them to come close in winning the Super 14 in 2010, which would mean finals action for the first time since the Brumbies won the title in 2004. However, injuries to star recruits Rocky Elsom, Matt Giteau and a hand injury suffered by Ben Alexander have limited the teams time together on the training paddock, so instant success may not occur as easily as most expect.
Matt Toomua will replace Giteau in the flyhalf role and the Brumbies are confident there will be no problems with him filling in. A stint with the Stormers in the 2009 Currie Cup and a starting spot, albeit brief, on the Wallabies Spring tour has given Toomua every confidence he can get the job done.
The Force are coming off a last start win in their trial match over Queensland which will give them some confidence after losing their marquee signing Andre Pretorius to a season ending hamstring injury. Pretorius was seen as a signing to give the Force back line some stability and an experienced head after losing Giteau. This responsibility has now been given to Mark Bartholomeusz, a former Brumby who was been plying his trade in Europe since 2004. His insight to the workings of the Brumbies may prove helpful in shutting down the Brumbies.
Nic Henderson may be another to share some secrets about the Brumbies forwards, who will need to improve after a woeful display in their final trial against NSW last week where the scrum and lineout were dominated. Matt Dunning will be looking to rejuvenate his career after moving across from NSW where his playing time was limited behind Been Robinson and Al Baxter.
KEY MATCH UPS:
David Pocock v George Smith
A mouthwatering clash between the master and his apprentice. George Smith last week surprisingly announced he is breaking his contract with the Brumbies and ARU which means Pocock has an unobstructed path to making the Wallaby number 7 his own, but he will still have to step up against one of the best ruck burglars.
James O’Connor v Adam Ashley-Cooper
The incumbent Wallabies fullback against the boy of the future. James O’Connor, who was another Brumbies off season target, will need to have a strong game to further his credentials as he comes up against current Wallabies fullback. Both players are trying to nail down a permanent position in the Wallabies back line
and rid themselves of the dreaded ‘utility’ tag, which has been the undoing of many a career. Ashley-Cooper had a strong trial against the Waratahs last week by scoring a try and will be looking to continue that form.
Nathan Sharpe v Mark Chisholm
The Force captain will run out for his 50th Cap as a Force player with plenty to prove after missing the Spring tour through a shoulder injury. His presence in the line out will give the Force an attacking platform. Chisholm will be looking to further cement his place in the Wallabies pack after getting a second chance under Robbie Deans on the Spring tour.
15 James O’Connor, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Sam Harris, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Mark Bartholomeusz, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Pek Cowan, 1 Nic Henderson. Reserves: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Mitchell Inman, 22 Josh Tatupu.
15 Adam Ashley-Cooper; 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Stirling Mortlock, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo; 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Josh Valentine; 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom; 5 Justin Harrison, 4 Mark Chisholm; 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Salesi Maafu, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Tyrone Smith, 22 Alfi Mafi
Kick off 7:05 WST 10:05 EDST Live Fox 3 (Australia)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia) (Groan)
Assistant referees: Nathan Pearce (Australia), Julian Pritchard (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)
Betting: Force $3.24 Brumbies $1.35