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Super 12 Preview

Super 12 Preview

The ACT Brumbies must overcome a psychological
barrier and the weight of history to lift their second Super 12 rugby crown against their New Zealand nemesis the Canterbury Crusaders

The ACT Brumbies must overcome a psychological
barrier and the weight of history to lift their second Super 12 rugby crown against their New Zealand nemesis the Canterbury Crusaders in
Saturday’s final.

Australia’s top-performing rugby province have home ground
advantage and
form on the board heading into the decider, yet they must block out
seeming inability to master the Crusaders when the chips are down.

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The Crusaders, four-time winners of the southern hemisphere
series, have knocked over the Brumbies in five of their last six
meetings and
are the only team to have a positive win-loss record (3-2) at
Canberra Stadium.

The relevant statistic, though, is that the Crusaders have
finished on top
in their two Super 12 finals in 2000 and 2002 and in last year’s
final 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 wins
and three
defeats and have totted up a 139-point differential to finish six
points clear
of the second-placed Crusaders, who lost four times and racked up a
difference of 42.

ACT have the best attack in Super 12, structured, innovative and
which has
netted them eight bonus points for scoring four of more tries in
their 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 Justin
was inspirational in the semi-final win over South Africa’s Western

David Nucifora, who will finish up as Brumbies’ coach after the
final as a
result of player power, is talking down the Crusaders’ psychological
hold 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 counts
so we’re
happy to be at home playing them and can’t wait for it to start.”

“(In) 2002 we played them twice over there and they won both
games, last
year it was a pretty tight game here last round and they snuck home
here when
both teams had a heck of a lot of injuries.

“But they’re different teams and really irrelevant to this
We’ve been a consistent team all year, we’ve played well and
I 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 doubt
about that, but we
know we’ve got the team that can do it.”

The Brumbies are without their skipper Stirling Mortlock, who
injured knee
ligaments in the 32-17 semi-final win over the Waikato Chiefs and the
confrontational Wallaby flanker Owen Finegan will lead the side in
the final.

Crusaders coach Robbie Deans welcomes any plans by the Brumbies to
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 he
stormed past
him to post a first half try.

Deans questioned whether Nucifora’s comments were a smoke-screen
to divert
attention away from their real targets.
“It’s good of them to signal their plans to us,” Deans

“It’s that time of year, they could be playing games and it
could be a
total decoy.

“The Brumbies will look to probe every channel, they won’t be
so we’re expecting everything really.”

All Blacks lock Chris Jack returns from injury to bolster the
Crusaders to
replace Ross Filipo, who goes to the bench to join goalkicking
fly-half Andrew

Deans said the return of Jack, who missed the semi-final, added
some vital
experience for the Crusaders’ pack.

AFP – 2004.