Brumbies players push traditional rivalry with Waratahs

Alex Mitchell |

The Brumbies have built an 11-match winning streak against the NSW Waratahs.
The Brumbies have built an 11-match winning streak against the NSW Waratahs.

ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says his side’s biggest rivalry remains intact, despite their stunning 11-match winning streak against the NSW Waratahs.

Leading into Saturday night’s clash at GIO Stadium, Brumbies players have been pushing the importance of beating their local foes and continuing their push up the Super Rugby Pacific table.

The third-ranked side (five wins, one loss) could be excused for overlooking the struggling Waratahs in their final hit-out before a mid-season bye week, but Larkham said their collective mind was on the job at hand.

“It’s been driven internally by the players,” Larkham said.

“We just know the build-up over the last couple of years has been right for us when we come into ‘Tah Week’, and we’re following the same process. 

“The build-up will be pretty big on game day for us for sure … we had obviously a big game against (Queensland) on the weekend.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says his players will not be complacent against the Waratahs. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“Bodies were quite sore and the boys were quite tired. It’s more of a slow build for us this week, but the energy will certainly be there on the weekend.”

The Waratahs, who have lost their past four outings each by less than a converted try, welcome Wallabies star Angus Bell back into the front row after he missed their 27-21 defeat to Melbourne with a back injury.

While NSW won’t have back-rower Langi Gleeson (concussion), injured Wallabies hooker Dave Porecki or his deputy Mahe Vailanu (knee), the visitors also regain Charlie Gamble and get Lalakai Foketi into the starting side.

“They’ve been really close in four or five games so far this season, going down to the wire and losing in the last couple of minutes,” Larkham said.

“I’m sure their supporters will think that this is the weekend (that they get a win). I hope they turn up and we get a really good atmosphere and a great game.”

At the Brumbies, balancing squad depth as the side builds into the season is one of the bigger challenges facing Larkham and his staff.

Nick Frost and Tom Hooper come into the starters after shining off the bench in last weekend’s 20-19 win against the Reds, with Connal McInerney and Jack Debreczeni joining the reserves.

“There’s really a competition, particularly in the second row and back row, so we’re just trying to get a rotation with those guys,” Larkham said.

“We’re making a decision every week based on the opposition as to the best combination we think is going to work for the first 50 minutes and then those guys that come off the bench … and what can they add to the performance in the back-end of the game.

“They’re all going to add something special for that last 20, 25, 30 minutes.”