The Brumbies have experienced a four-year Super Rugby semifinal drought, which must be frustrating for a team that possesses so much talent, skill and patience.
However, they have committed themselves to playing an expansive brand of running rugby in the Super 14 in 2009.
Despite finishing fifth on the team try-scoring list in 2008 with 36 tries – behind the Crusaders (49 tries), Chiefs (44), Blues (41) and Hurricanes (40) – the Brumbies will be looking to improve on their attacking record in 2009.
They have a great reputation for playing an attractive, spectator-friendly style of rugby and it seems as if the coaching staff will be re-enforcing this in 2009.
The Brumbies still find themselves in a rebuilding phase and it is unlikely that they will win the tournament. However, they will definitely be competitive and should get close to securing a semi final berth.
While the Brumbies’ experienced duo of Stephen Larkahm and George Gregan have left a major gap in the decision-making department, youngsters such as Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua have a season of Super 14 rugby under their belts and will play with increased confidence as a result in 2009.
Strengths: The Brumbies’ ability to hold onto possession has always been their major trump card. They have now propagated an expansive approach in 2009 and in combination with the good discipline an ability to keep the ball alive will see them delivering some enterprising play in the competition.
Weakness: There is still a perception that the Brumbies lack experience and may rely too heavily on the likes of George Smith and Stirling Mortlock.
Noteworthy signings: Ben Hand (Waratahs), Shawn Mackay (Sevens), Alfi Mafi (Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Reds), James Stannard (Force), Sitaleki Timani (Force),
Noteworthy losses: Julian Huxley (retirement), Richard Stanford (Western Force)
Coach: Former ACT Brumbies fullback Andy Friend succeeds Laurie Fisher after a disappointing reign. While the Brumbies are the only Aussie side to have won a Super Rugby title. Friend will be hoping to restore Brumbies’ pride after they have fallen from their earlier glory days.
Captain: Friend believes the captaincy will bring out the best in Stephen Hoiles and ease the load on Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock.Mortlock missed the early part of the 2008 season which really hampered their efforts with Wallaby fetcher George Smith then taking on the responsibility of leading the team for the first part of the tournament. The trio has more than enough experience to guide the Brumbies on their way back to being one of the competition’s frontrunners.
Player(s) to watch: Among the loose forwards Julian Silva has been touted as a potential Wallaby in 2009 and he will be keen to use the Super 14 to show his ability. While the Brumbies backline does not have the most intimidating look, youngsters such as Lealifano and Tyrone Smith do provide a surprise element ahead of this year’s tournament.
2008 Position: 9th
Best finish: Super 12 winners in 2004 and 2001
Worst finish: 10th 1998
Home Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra (capacity: 27,000)
2009 Prediction: The Brumbies are still by far the most threatening of the Australian teams on attack and showed last season that they are very competent on defence too. In fact they had a better defensive record than the top four teams in last year’s competition. Expect a top-six finish for the Brumbies at the very least and maybe qualification for the semi final.
Brumbies: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Betham, Mitchell Chapman, Mark Chisholm, Huia Edmonds, Francis Fainifo, Gene Fairbanks, Mark Gerrard, Ben Hand, Nic Henderson, Stephen Hoiles, Joshua Holmes, Peter Kimlin, Christian Lealiifano, Salesi Ma’afu, Shawn Mackay, Alfi Mafi, Stephen Moore, Stirling Mortlock, Patrick Phibbs, Clyde Rathbone, Julian Salvi, Guy Shepherdson, George Smith, Tyrone Smith, James Stannard, Sitaleki Timani, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Matt Toomua, John Ulugia
Friday 13 February v Highlanders, away
Saturday 21 February v Crusaders, home
Saturady 28 February v Force, home
Friday 13 March v Waratahs, home
Saturday 21 March v Lions Johannesburg, away
Saturday 28 March v Sharks, away
Saturday 4 April v Cheetahs Bloemfontein, away
Saturday 11 April v Stormers, home
Friday 17 April v Bulls, home
Saturday 25 April v Hurricanes, away
Saturday 2 May v Reds, away
Saturday 9 May v Blues, home
Friday 15 May v Chiefs, away
Courtesy of Rugby365Tweet