Bloemfontein – Building on the legacy left behind by Jake White, the Brumbies are as strong as ever and cannot be underestimated by the Cheetahs when the two sides clash in a Super Rugby encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Under White, the Brumbies topped the Australian conference to reach the playoffs last year. They beat the Cheetahs 15-13 to advance to the semi-finals and defeated the Bulls 26-23 but lost out to the Chiefs, 22-27, in the final.
White later left the Australian side to join the Sharks, leaving former Wallaby flyhalf Stephen Larkham to take over the coaching role at the Canberra-based side.
The Cheetahs, second from bottom in both the South African and combined logs, are playing solely for pride. The Brumbies, however, are top of the Australian conference and third overall and will be out for maximum points against a struggling side.
Despite producing some creative rugby, coach Naka Drotske admitted the Brumbies posed a huge threat even though they were under new management.
“We all know about the legacy that Jake White has left behind at the Brumbies. Under his leadership they did extremely well last season and they seem to have brought that over to this year's competition,” Drotske said.
“Now they are the pick of the Australian sides under Stephen Larkham and will pose a huge challenge on our home turf.”
The Cheetahs come off yet another loss last weekend against another Australian side, the Western Force. The hosts could have turned the tables if they had looked after their possession optimally at the breakdown area. The Force scored two tries from turnovers and Drotske was adamant his side had to avoid a repetition of those mistakes to be victorious.
“In some instances, we played good rugby against the Force. We felt that the tries they scored were soft tries because it resulted from turnovers after we didn't look after the ball.
“That is something that we can ill-afford against the Brumbies. They will punish us if we let them. The breakdown area has been one of the focus points this week in our approach to the game.”
Both the Cheetahs and Brumbies have two game-breakers in their sides. The hosts will look to Springbok utility back Willie le Roux to conjure up some magic, while the Brumbies' fullback Jesse Mogg was aiming for a spot in the Wallaby side.
“We all know what Willie is capable of. He is a talented player and one of our biggest assets on the attack,” Drotske said.
“We will look to him to give us momentum. Jesse Mogg is also known for his ability to turn a game on its head and we will be on the lookout for some sniping breaks from him.” – Sapa