Larkham backs Brumbies to rise for finals

It’s been nine long years since the University of Canberra Brumbies last featured in a Super Rugby finals series, but despite the drought backs coach Stephen Larkham says the side is looking forward to the challenge of finally having another crack at the title.

Larkham was instrumental the last time the ACT-based side played in a finals game, the 2004 grand final win over the Crusaders, and believes the side will be mentally and physically prepared for match against the Cheetahs on Sunday.

“In the history of the Brumbies it’s been nine years since we last played finals but in the history of this team it’s only really been two years, so the guys are really looking forward to it,” Larkham said. 

“The Cheetahs are one team that we haven’t played this year so it’s a new challenge for us in that respect.

“Finals are all about preparation, making sure you know your opposition, so the preparation and focus is all about Sunday.

“One of the big messages this weekend is to try and play our own game and build pressure on the Cheetahs and make sure we are ready for the intensity that finals footy brings.”

The Cheetahs will arrive in the capital for the first time since their thrilling round three clash last year which ended in dramatic style with the young Brumbies side clinching a 24-23 win.

While the Brumbies have improved greatly since that day, so too have the Cheetahs who find themselves playing in their first finals series since their introduction into Super Rugby in 2006.

Based in the South African city of Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs have been one of the surprise packets of the 2013 season finishing in sixth spot on the table with 10 wins from their 16 games, including a five week unbeaten run earlier in the season.

But while Larkham expects the Cheetahs will enter the match very strongly, he is hoping that a strong Canberra crowd will turn out on Sunday to help the Brumbies get over the line.

“The crowd will really come into affect on Sunday, so hopefully we can get a really good crowd out there,” Larkham said.

“We had a really good crowd for the British and Irish Lions game and that really motivated and lifted the team out there.”

Brumbies Rugby is looking forward to seeing a packed Canberra Stadium this Sunday when the University of Canberra Brumbies face the Cheetahs in the first qualifying final at 4.10pm.