Brumbies, Waratahs in fiery semi-finalComment on this story
Sydney - For the New South Wales Waratahs, Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final against the ACT Brumbies is a chance to firmly establish their place at the top of Australian rugby and another step on the path they hope will take them to their first title.
For the Canberra-based Brumbies, any match against the Waratahs is just a little more personal than that for reasons that go back to the very origins of the team at the start of Super Rugby in the mid-1990s.
“The Waratahs games are the most important games to the Brumbies players, that's just the way it is,” Brumbies captain Ben Mowen explained on Friday.
“It dates back to when the competition started, the Brumbies were started by the guys who were the off-cuts or weren't given a chance by Queensland and New South Wales.
“Obviously, when you're going up against a side you've been overlooked by that is a massive motivating factor. The Brumbies have always held onto that.”
So the Brumbies may have two Super Rugby titles to the Waratahs none, and been the most recent Australian team to reach the final, but they still carry a hefty chip on their shoulders about their glamorous and wealthy neighbours.
“We're very proud of the story of the Brumbies, and when new guys come in it gets explained to them from year dot,” Mowen added.
“That becomes really important to the guys, and you start marking Waratahs games on the calendar because they are the ones you want to be involved in.”
Being one of a handful of former Brumbies playing for the Waratahs on Saturday, Michael Hooper is well aware of the history of the fixture but thinks for his team mates, the rivalry is about more recent events.
“The Brumbies have a different look upon the Tahs than the Tahs have on the Brumbies,” said the flanker, who will lead the team out on Saturday in place of the injured Dave Dennis.
“For us it's really exciting because they've been there, they've got into the final last year and got really close to winning the thing.
“We really want to beat them because they're a really good team.”
The last time the teams met in a Super Rugby semi-final in Sydney in 2002, the Brumbies ran out 51-10 winners.
No one is expecting that to happen on Saturday with the Waratahs strong favourites, having topped the Super Rugby standings and gone unbeaten at the Sydney Football Stadium this year.
They also won the last meeting between the teams 39-8 a month ago and Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher is hoping the rivalry can help bring out a much better performance from his team this time.
“We've just got to go out there and do our business, heads down, bums up, get around the park,” he said.
“We go out-worked last time, we can't let that happen again, we got out-muscled last time, we can't let that happen again.
“That sort of effort has got to be driven by emotion but it's got to be controlled as well.” – Reuters