Australia's top-performing rugby province have home groundadvantage and form on the board heading into the decider, yet they must block outtheir seeming inability to master the Crusaders when the chips are down.
The Crusaders, four-time winners of the southern hemisphereprovincial series, have knocked over the Brumbies in five of their last sixmeetings and are the only team to have a positive win-loss record (3-2) atCanberra Stadium.
The relevant statistic, though, is that the Crusaders havefinished on top in their two Super 12 finals in 2000 and 2002 and in last year'sfinal regular round when the ACT needed a home win to guarantee a home semi-final.
The Brumbies have been the best outfit this campaign: eight winsand three defeats and have totted up a 139-point differential to finish sixpoints clear of the second-placed Crusaders, who lost four times and racked up apoints difference of 42.
ACT have the best attack in Super 12, structured, innovative andwhich has netted them eight bonus points for scoring four of more tries intheir wins, compared to the more conservative Crusaders' six bonus points.
But the Crusaders are a tremendously difficult team to break down,such is their forward strength and technical ability in the rucks and mauls,allied to a clever tactical kicking game. The backs are well-orchestrated by All Black scrumhalf JustinMarshall, who was inspirational in the semi-final win over South Africa's WesternStormers.
David Nucifora, who will finish up as Brumbies' coach after thefinal as a result of player power, is talking down the Crusaders' psychologicalhold over his team. "We don't put any significance on it," Nucifora said.
"It's all about what happens out there on Saturday night, it's all that countsso we're
"(In) 2002 we played them twice over there and they won bothgames, last year it was a pretty tight game here last round and they snuck homehere when both teams had a heck of a lot of injuries.
"But they're different teams and really irrelevant to thisyear. We've been a consistent team all year, we've played well andI think we've certainly continued to improve since we played them last."
"We know it's going to be a tough game, there's no doubtabout that, but we know we've got the team that can do it."
The Brumbies are without their skipper Stirling Mortlock, whoinjured knee ligaments in the 32-17 semi-final win over the Waikato Chiefs and the confrontational Wallaby flanker Owen Finegan will lead the side inthe final.
Crusaders coach Robbie Deans welcomes any plans by the Brumbies totarget centre Aaron Mauger.
Nucifora has pin-pointed Mauger's defence as a weakness, saying he"had a few problems in making decisions" in their semi-final.
Stormers strong-man De Wet Barry left Mauger grasping as hestormed past him to post a first half try.
Deans questioned whether Nucifora's comments were a smoke-screento divert attention away from their real targets. "It's good of them to signal their plans to us," Deanssaid.
"It's that time of year, they could be playing games and itcould be a total decoy.
"The Brumbies will look to probe every channel, they won't bepredictable so we're expecting everything really."
All Blacks lock Chris Jack returns from injury to bolster theCrusaders to replace Ross Filipo, who goes to the bench to join goalkickingfly-half Andrew Mehrtens.
Deans said the return of Jack, who missed the semi-final, addedsome vital experience for the Crusaders' pack.
AFP - 2004.