Brumbies wary of Sharks as semis loom
Canberra (AFP) –
The ACT Brumbies head into Saturday's Super Rugby quarter-final against the Coastal Sharks as clear favourites, but coach Dan McKellar has warned his team not to get ahead of themselves as they target a third title.
The Australian franchise have won eight of their past nine games, including seven in a row at Canberra Stadium.
In contrast, the Sharks only just squeezed into the final eight after a last-gasp win over Western Stormers completed an unconvincing run to the playoffs.
Despite this, McKellar is wary ahead of the sudden-death match, which could be the last for inspirational captain Christian Lealiifano who is leaving for Japan at the end of the season.
Fellow Brumby stars David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter and Henry Speight are also departing the club when the campaign ends.
McKellar pointed to the Durban outfit drawing with the mighty Crusaders in Christchurch and beating a number of sides on the road.
"They're the only team that has come away with points out of Christchurch for a long time," he said. "So, one off game -- they're going to be dangerous.
"Typical South African side, big men, set piece, speed on the edges, so we're well aware of their threats but we'll continue to focus on getting our performance right."
McKellar has made four changes to the team that defeated the Queensland Reds last weekend, with Speight passed fit to reclaim the right-wing spot.
Toni Pulu returns to the left wing forming a potent back three alongside Tom Banks.
The other changes are in the back-row where Tom Cusack and Pete Samu return to the starting XV alongside Rob Valetini, with loose forwards Lachlan McCaffrey and Jahrome Brown providing power and impact from the replacements bench.
"It's about keeping our standards super high and not getting ahead of ourselves and it's been working really well," Lealiifano told reporters Friday.
"We're keeping it normal this week and training hard and making sure we're doing the right things to put ourselves in a position to play well."
The Brumbies beat the Sharks to win the 2001 title and have never lost a playoff to a South African side. They also won the competition in 2004.
Should they win on Saturday and the Jaguares defeat the Chiefs in Buenos Aires, the Australians will travel to Argentina for their semi-final.
If the Chiefs and Brumbies are successful, the New Zealanders will be the opposition in Canberra.
? 2019 AFP