The University of Canberra Brumbies have named a strong team to take on the Cheetahs this weekend with just two changes from the side that beat the Force a fortnight ago.
Ben Hand comes into the starting side at lock in place of Leon Power while Pat McCabe will make his long-awaited return after post-World Cup shoulder surgery.
For Hand it is a shot at redemption having missed selection for the first match against the Force. The gifted line-out technician has played 42 games for the University of Canberra Brumbies and will be looking to string the next eight together to reach the 50 club.
“I’m excited to get back out there, watching from the sidelines last week wasn’t easy, you always want to be involved with the team,” Hand said.
“But the coaching staff have let me know that I’ll play plenty of rugby this year, starting on Saturday afternoon against the Cheetahs.
“The Cheetahs are a team that you can’t take lightly, we were probably guilty of that last year over there in Bloemfontein and the Waratahs were beaten soundly by them in Sydney too.
“They will be a much different team to the one that played the Bulls last weekend and we just have to be ready for a tough encounter.”
Another Ben looking forward to the match is Ben Alexander, who celebrates his 50th cap. The all time highest try-scorer for the University of Canberra Brumbies against the Cheetahs was hoping for a win to keep his side’s momentum going into week four of the competition.
“Clearly it’s an honour for me to make 50 caps and something I’ll look back on when I’m older with some satisfaction, but the focus for this week is doing a job on the Cheetahs and keeping the Brumbies at the top end of the table,” Alexander said.
“They proved last year that they are a dangerous side who can punish you from anywhere. Our defensive patterns need to be air tight and we are also aware that giving away a penalty from anywhere in our own half is as good as three points.
“We’ve had a good week training and everyone is feeling positive about the match so it’s up to us to keep the ball rolling.”
McCabe’s selection comes a week after he was picked to play Tonga A as part of the ACT XV side competing in the Pacific Rugby Cup. While heavy rain cancelled that fixture, Saturday’s match will provide McCabe a stack of opportunity to test his shoulder defending the wing.
McCabe’s elevation to the team comes at the expense of Robbie Coleman who misses this week with a groin injury. With Coleman missing at fullback, Jesse Mogg will play in No 15 with his wing being covered by McCabe.
The bench remains the same. In line for his Super Rugby debut is Zack Holmes, who has again found himself on the bench.
Saturday is Family Day at Canberra Stadium, with a 3.30pm kick-off time and various activities organised for children in the Precinct.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
3. Dan Palmer
4. Ben Hand
5. Sam Carter
6. Peter Kimlin
7. Ita Vaea
8. Ben Mowen
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Henry Speight
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Andrew Smith
14. Pat McCabe
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Anthony Hegarty
17. Ruaidhri Murphy
18. Scott Fardy
19. Michael Hooper
20. Ian Prior
21. Zack Holmes
22. Joe Tomane
University of Canberra Brumbies v Cheetahs
Canberra Stadium, Bruce
Referee: Keith Brown
• This is the eighth game between the University of Canberra Brumbies and the Cheetahs, with the home team holding a slight advantage at four wins to three. (Six games played since 2006)
• But although the win-loss ratio is tight, the University of Canberra Brumbies have easily edged the Cheetahs in total points scored notching up an extra 96 over the seven-game history.
• 2011 was the first time the Cheetahs have finished higher on the competition table and the second year the University of Canberra Brumbies posted a loss in Bloemfontein.
• Earning his 50th Cap tonight is Ben Alexander, who is the University of Canberra Brumbies all-time highest try scorer against the Cheetahs with three
• Always a good option for first try-scorer, he bagged a double last time this fixture was played at Canberra Stadium in 2012