ACT Brumbies coach Jake White is adamant his side can clinch the Super Rugby title this season, declaring: ”You don’t get a prize for being the best Australian side.”
The Brumbies have secured a place in the finals for the first time since 2004 and will resume their season when they play the Western Force on July 13.
But White has already begun plotting his team’s potential path through the Super Rugby finals, which includes lifting the trophy at Canberra Stadium.
Speaking with The Sunday Canberra Times, the former South African World Cup-winning coach predicted the Brumbies were capable of upsetting the British and Irish Lions and that the Lions could ”crumble” if they lost the opening Test to the Wallabies in Brisbane.
The Brumbies will break a nine-year finals drought next month.
They will play at least one finals match at home and can finish as high as first if results go their way in the next month.
White wants his players to embrace the hype of the build-up.
”Every day I think about winning the title,” he said.
”There’s no use getting to the last corner of a 400-metre sprint and then slowing down. At this point in time we’ve got a ticket in this lottery, it’s about creating an opportunity.
”On their day, this team can beat anybody. Now the players are sensing that, they believe it and know if you put in the hard yards you get the rewards.”
The Brumbies had to overcome a mid-season slump to get their campaign back on track.
They won just three of eight games in the middle of the year, but never lost their standing as Australia’s No.1 team.
They secured a guaranteed play-off berth when they beat the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.
”You don’t get a prize for being the best Australian side, we’ve won nothing,” White said.
”I’ve got no doubt they’ve earned the respect. But now it’s an internal thing, the job’s not done. My goal is to put Brumbies rugby back to where it was, back to the glory days.
”The doubters will always be there. The drop-off was always going to come, but it’s about how you get out of it. The boys felt the pressure, they heard the doubters, but they came out the other side.”
PATH TO THE TITLE
The Brumbies won’t know their opponent in the finals until after their clash with the Force.
If they finish first or second, they will get a week off before playing a home semi-final.
White has already started mapping what’s required for the Brumbies to host the Super Rugby grand final at Canberra Stadium – and win.
”We’ll play the Cheetahs in the first week of finals. Then the Bulls in Pretoria and then the Crusaders in a final at home,” White predicted.
”That’s if everything goes the way form says it should go.”
TAKING ON THE LIONS
The Brumbies’ depth will be tested when they line up against the Lions at Canberra Stadium on Tuesday night.
It’s the last match in the Lions’ preparation for the first Test in Brisbane next weekend.
The Brumbies will be without 12 players through injury and Wallabies duties.
Twelve years ago a depleted Brumbies outfit went agonisingly close to stealing victory against the tourists. They led 28-23 with time running out, but the Lions scored a converted try in injury time to win the match.
”It’s a chance to put the Brumbies name in history,” White said. ”It’s sporting tales and folklore. The only people that have to believe we can win is us. Imagine if the Brumbies can turn the Lions over a week before the first Test, it will be talked about in Canberra for the rest of time.”
The Wallabies beat the Lions in the 2001 series with a victory in the third Test.
This year their preparation has been overshadowed by the axing of Queensland flyhalf Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale’s return from alcohol rehabilitation and code-hopper Israel Folau’s impending debut.
White was reluctant to be drawn on team selection and how Wallabies coach Robbie Deans would play. But the South African World Cup-winning coach says the series will be decided in the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday night.
”It’s always tough to call a Lions series … in 2009 people were convinced that as world champions, the Springboks would pulverise the Lions,” he said.
”Had it not been for a second-Test 50m kick from Morne Steyn, South Africa could have lost the series.
”Whoever wins the first Test will win the series. It’s about getting momentum. Australia love Brisbane. The Lions have had better preparation … if the Lions lose they could crumble to pieces.
”They won’t say it, but the Lions’ expectation is they think they are going to win that first Test.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.