Sydney – Captain Ben Mowen said Friday the ACT Brumbies deserved to win this year's Super Rugby title, drawing on the work they have done over the last three years.
The two-time winners take on Australian rivals New South Wales Waratahs in a semi-final blockbuster in Sydney on Saturday for a place in the August 2 final.
Seven-time champions Canterbury Crusaders play South Africa's Coastal Sharks in the other semi-final in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Waratahs finished the regular season seven points clear of the second-placed Crusaders with the Brumbies 13 points adrift in fourth place.
The Sydneysiders, who have yet to win a Super Rugby title after two losing final appearances, are in the midst of a seven-game winning run and last month thrashed the Brumbies 39-8 in Sydney.
But Mowen believes the Brumbies should be rewarded after three years of hard work since the side's disastrous 2011 campaign.
That year, the Brumbies registered just four wins for a franchise-low 13th-place finish.
But the arrival of Mowen from the Waratahs and World Cup-winning Springboks coach Jake White along with the development of a batch of young stars lifted the Brumbies to seventh, second and fourth in the past three seasons.
“I honestly believe the group deserves a championship for the work that's been done,” Mowen told reporters.
“Not only the last 12 months but over the last three and a bit years.
“But thinking you deserve one and actually getting one are two different things.”
Saturday's showdown could be Mowen's last for the Brumbies, with the back-rower joining French club Montpellier.
“For me personally, I'm very motivated to make sure that this group gets what they deserve,” he said.
Mowen, last year's Wallabies captain, rates the task of toppling the Waratahs in Sydney an even bigger challenge than beating the Northern Bulls in Pretoria in the semi-finals of last year's competition.
“That was obviously a great milestone for the team, to go over there (to South Africa) and achieve that, but I think the way that the Waratahs have played this year, they have really stamped themselves on the competition,” Mowen said.
But Mowen claims the experience of going all the way to last year's final where they lost to the Waikato Chiefs has the Brumbies in the right frame of mind to tackle the Waratahs.
“We probably burned ourselves out a little bit (last season) through the training week, with being over-excited for game day, where this year we're definitely a lot more measured,” he said.
“We've scored 11 tries in the last two weeks, so our attack feels really confident and our defence is working hard.” – Sapa-AFP