We are well and truly at the business end now, the Plus500 Brumbies just two wins away from adding a third Super Rugby title to their locker.
At varying points this season, the odds of that happening were very different. Before kicking off in round one, confidence was high in Brumbies country that the side could be competitive.
Though the team slipped up in round one, their win over the Chiefs put the Brumbies right back on to the list of title contenders.
Then came the mid-season blip. A tough run of games put the Brumbies on the brink of being out of contention, and you can believe the doubter had their usual field day.
They kept those receipts, because again, Dan McKellar’s charges remained a unit throughout their struggles.
Since winning at home against the Lions, April 13 at GIO Stadium, the Brumbies have played nine games and won eight of them. How poetic it is then that the Brumbies get to avenge that only blip that second-term report card against the Jaguares this Saturday, in the Semi-Finals.
It’s a mammoth task for the Brumbies to go to Argentina and beat this Jaguares side, let’s start there. The Argentinian trip is often described as the most gruelling journey in Super Rugby and 14 of the 15 Jaguares that will start the game tomorrow morning are capped at Test level, that’s one. Two, the Jose Amalfitani Stadium is expected to be at capacity for the Grand-Final play-in, packed full to the gills with a vociferous, partisan home crowd.
So yes, the Brumbies backs are up against a wall here, but you can be assured, that they will not have any fear. If you ask Dan McKellar, he would probably say that the Brumbies could have and should have won that game in April.
The home side were awarded a dubious try in the first half and even still, the Brumbies had a chance to win it late but just couldn’t execute, which they have to be forgiven at least a little, given they’d travelled to Cape Town from Canberra the week before and made 200 tackles in victory over the Stormers.
This is all to say, this game is 50-50. Any oddsmaker who claims a favourite is running the risk here, because it’s anyone’s game tomorrow. Oddly, the Brumbies will fancy themselves up front against the normally immovable force of Argentinian forward packs.
Where the Jaguares excel, is in defence. Under Gonzalo Quesada, the Jaguares have become a team that can overwhelm you, swarm around you with line speed and aggression in the contact area.
Then, they counterattack as well as any side in Super Rugby. The Brumbies felt the full weight of that slip, slip knockout punch once or twice last time out against the Jaguares, so not overplaying and keeping the action in the right areas of the field is going to be crucial.
It’s a true semi-final clash. Two of the best sides, evenly matched in all areas going head to head. Now, with that lengthy intro to our match preview over, let’s move on to the team news.
The Brumbies were forced into one change with Pete Samu unable to travel due to injury, but the side won’t lose much if anything with Locky McCaffrey slipping straight into number eight.
McCaffrey’s inclusion means Murray Douglas joins the finishers, the Scotsman forming the Brumbies 6/2 bench which has been working well of late.
Head To Head
Augustin Creevy v Folau Fainga’a
This matchup probably won’t decide the game but hold on, because it’s still the key head to head. Both Creevy and Folau set the tone for their respective sides in terms of collisions and intensity.
When Creevy is rolling, chopping carriers at source then contesting for the ball, the Jaguares hum. It’s the same for Fainga’a. The more the commentators say “FAINGA”A WITH A BIG HIT UP,” or “WHAT A SHOT FROM THE BRUMBIES HOOKER”, the better the Brumbies are.
So no, this preview will not try and claim that front rowers will win or lose the semi-final but when you’re watching tomorrow, you will feel that when one team is ascending, the rakes will be driving it.
Okay, so just so we’re all aware……..
SCENARIO ONE: Brumbies Win | Hurricanes Win – Grand Final at GIO Stadium ( Ticket info to be released after CRUvHUR )
SCENARIO TWO: Brumbies Win | Crusaders Win – Grand Final in Christchurch (Travel Package info to be released after BRUvJAG )
SCENARIO THREE: Well we won’t talk about it now will we….
Saturday 29 June 2019, 9.05am AEST
Super Rugby Semi-Final
Jaguares v Plus500 Brumbies
(Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, 09:05am)
LIVE ON FOX SPORTS