The Brumbies have finally returned home from their South African trip, and they’ve been followed from Johannesburg by the Lions. The two sides clash this Saturday night in a match that will mark Matt Giteau’s 100th SupeRugby game.
Both teams have been underwhelming this year and have the grand total of three wins between them. With the home ground advantage the Brumbies would normally target this a very winnable game, but they’ve had a shocker of a week in trying to prepare for it. The perils of international travel struck and they had to endure an agonising 31 hours in transit, so it’s been a less-than-ideal training week.
The Brumbies will be looking to continue the good work that saw them in front at half-time against the Sharks, without repeating what happened in the second half of that match. It was obvious that the intensity dropped off, which is something that cannot occur against the Lions. They took the game to the Sharks through the forwards and this worked to some degree, but this week’s opponents have a huge weight advantage in the back row and the locals will have to work all game long to nullify that.
Brumbies coach Tony Rea has made limited changes for this match, with Wallabies lock Mark Chisholm dropped to the bench for what Rea described as ‘trying too hard’ against the Sharks. Ben Hand will take his place, with the other changes being Josh Valentine replacing Patrick Phibbs at halfback, and Henry Speight returning from injury to take his place on the bench.
The Lions are a team that fans and even coach John Mitchell have trouble working out. They started off the season with three close losses (to the Bulls, Stormers and Blues), before securing their lone win against the Cheetahs. Since then they have come close to winning again, but it appears they can’t quite sustain 80 minutes of performance to get over the line.
There was talk that former Springbok fly half Butch James would make the squad after his European commitments finished earlier than expected, but limited preparation time has ruled him out this week. I’m sure some Brumbies players won’t regret missing him, or his wayward shoulders.
For this week, Mitchell has made a heap of changes, probably in response to the 59-13 flogging they copped from the Cheetahs, and I don’t think that will help build team combinations. The Brumbies have done it a fair bit themselves this season and they haven’t benefitted from it.
Tip: The Brumbies showed a bit of promise against the Sharks last week, while the Lions were just poor against the Cheetahs. Playing at home in freezing conditions will be enough to see the Brumbies get over line in this one. Brumbies by 10.
Brumbies: 15. Pat McCabe, 14. Andrew Smith, 13. Tyrone Smith, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Matt Giteau, 9. Josh Valentine, 8. Ita Vaea, 7. Colby Faingaa, 6. Mitchell Chapman, 5. Ben Hand, 4. Peter Kimlin, 3. Jono Owen, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Salesi Ma’afu, 18. Mark Chisholm, 19. Michael Hooper, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Henry Speight.
Lions: 15. Jaco Taute, 14. Lionel Mapoe, 13. Dylan Des Fountain, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Deon van Rensburg, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Josh Strauss, 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Derick Minnie, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Wikus van Heerden, 3. Patrick Cilliers, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: 16. Edgar Marutlulle, 17. Kevin Buys, 18. Warren Whiteley, 19. Cobus Grobbelaar, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Jannie Boshoff.
Referee: Nathan Pearce (Aus)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Aus), Andrew Lees (Aus)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Aus)
Matt Giteau started his senior rugby career at the Brumbies in 2003 but actually had the rare distinction of being selected to represent his country before playing for a provincial team — he was picked straight from the Easts (Canberra) Colts squad for the 2002 Spring tour and debuted as a Wallaby off the bench against England at Twickenham. He secured a Super 12 title in 2004 in a team that boasted the likes of other locals George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Joe Roff. He played with the Brumbies until 2006, then moved on to join the Western Force where he played 37 games. He returned to Canberra in 2010. He will be the third local player to crack 100 games, behind Gregan and Larkham. So come on fans, head out to Kelvinator Castle to support a local hero!