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Super 12 Preview

Super 12 Preview

Australia’s ACT Brumbies are looking to
their clinical structured play to blot out the Waikato Chiefs for a second straight week on Saturday to secure a place in the final.

Australia’s ACT Brumbies are looking to
their clinical structured play to blot out the Waikato Chiefs for a second straight week on Saturday and secure a place in this year’s Super 12 rugby

If the Brumbies repeat their controlled performance from last
week’s 15-12
win over the Chiefs in Hamilton they are confident of playing in
their fifth
final against likely competition nemesis Canterbury Crusaders.
The four-time winning Crusaders have home ground advantage and
preparation for their Saturday semi-final against Western Stormers,
who are
disadvantaged by having to travel from South Africa to play in
The Brumbies and Crusaders are the form teams of the southern
provincial competition this season, but must overcome their underdog
rivals to
lock up another trans-Tasman showdown.
ACT scored two tries in beating the Chiefs last weekend and such
was their
iron-fisted control that the Kiwis had to rely on penalty goals to
prise a
bonus point and clinch their first-ever playoff spot.
Brumbies enforcer Owen Finegan says his Canberra-based team owed
it to
themselves to play their best rugby or risk blowing their third
straight Super
12 finals campaign.
The Brumbies fell to eventual champions Auckland Blues in last
year’s semis
and lost the 2002 final to the Crusaders in Christchurch after
carrying off
their first Super 12 crown in 2001 against the Coastal Sharks.
“We were happy to come away with a win over there, we were
happy to get a
bonus point and we never went for the kill,” Finegan said of
last week’s win
over the Chiefs.
“Being in so many finals as a team we realise we’ve let
ourselves down a
little bit by not going all the way. There’s a real feeling this year
that we
can go all the way.”
The Chiefs, who have been this year’s surprise packets with their
play, have All Blacks scrum-half Byron Kelleher back from a thigh
injury which
kept him out of last week’s encounter.
Kelleher is hellbent to prove that Brumbies and Wallaby rival
George Gregan does not get under his skin and unsettle him in big
The burly All Black, whose arrival from the Otago Higlanders has
played a
key role in the Chiefs’ reversal of fortunes, believes he has more
often been
able to upset the chatty Gregan with his aggressive play than the
other way
Of the 24 Super 12 semis played since 1996, 17 have been won by
the home
side. The Chiefs’ sole triumph from four matches in Canberra came in
Canterbury, who were off the boil in a 37-20 loss to the
Hurricanes last week, will go into their playoff minus All Blacks
Marshall and Chris Jack.
Scrum-half Marshall has not recovered from a hip muscle suffered
in the
24-9 win over the Stormers in Christchurch two weeks ago, while lock
Jack was
concussed after a high tackle last week and has not recovered from
Crusaders coach Robbie Deans will use rookies Jamie Nutbrown at
half and
Ross Filipo at lock, giving the Stormers two untried targets.
The Crusaders will also be without number eight Mose Tuiali’i, who
was sent
off when the two teams last met for headbutting centre Marius Joubert.
He was subsequently banned for three weeks, forcing him to miss
the rest of
the competition, with the judiciary panel finding that he had reacted
to an
“unacceptable comment” from a Stormers’ player.
Stormers are the underdogs but coach Gert Smal warns they will
have more
bite this time round.
“I think that (loss) is just the nature of the Super
12,” he said. “If you
lose, then you must prepare for the next game.
“This is a new game with new combinations and we are excited
to be in a
Joubert and De Wet Barry, South Africa’s most lethal midfield
were overshadowed when the teams last met with the Crusaders winning
playing for 50 minutes with 14 men.
With Crusaders centre Aaron Mauger set to make a return alongside
Carter, another intriguing midfield looms.
The Stormers only have one draw in five trips to play the

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