Brumbies have big hopes for Tahs match - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Brumbies have big hopes for Tahs match

By Darren Walton and Karlis Salna 12/03/2009 07:28:42 PM Comments (0)

Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles can smell the desperation in the air in the countdown to Friday night's Super 14 derby with the NSW Waratahs.

With Wallabies spots up for grabs and their Super 14 season on the line, Hoiles says the Brumbies are bent on bouncing back from their last-up home loss to the Western Force two weeks ago.

Having had the bye last round, the Brumbies have had a fortnight to stew over their shock loss to the Force - only their second home defeat against any Australian provincial rival in 14 seasons of Super rugby.

"I sense there's a better feeling in the camp. Last time we played here we were a little bit flat for some reason," Hoiles said on Thursday.

"This week, for obvious reasons playing the Waratahs, everyone's in a good mind frame and ready to play.

"It's just the game of the year that everyone gets up for. Traditionally, it's the Brumbies' biggest game of the year."

The Brumbies' only other Super loss to an interstate rival came against the Waratahs in 2005 and Hoiles said a repeat defeat didn't bear thinking about - especially with his side languishing in seventh spot and set for a testing three-game stretch in South Africa.

"If you drop any game in this competition, let alone two in a row with a bye in between, it's going to put you in an awkward position," Hoiles said.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will be among the keen observers at Canberra Stadium, no doubt casting a discerning eye over the many personal duels.

Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock has been shifted to his preferred outside centre position, where he will clash with Waratahs young gun Rob Horne, while the halfback battle between NSW's Test incumbent Luke Burgess and Josh Holmes shapes as another cracker.

"There's plenty of good match-ups in this game," Waratahs coach Chris Hickey acknowledged.

"(Flankers George) Smith and (Phil) Waugh ... the two hookers (Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau)."

But the match has been robbed of an all-Test front-row showdown, with NSW prop Al Baxter (calf) failing to prove his fitness at the Waratahs' captain's run late on Thursday afternoon.

Rookie Dan Palmer has replaced Baxter and will be making his starting debut in Super rugby.

"Injuries are part of the competition. You've got to deal with that," Hickey said, putting on a brave face.

Waratahs captain Phil Waugh was less thrilled about the prospect of being without Baxter, who had been hoping to make his 100th appearance for NSW.

"You can't replace experience. Al Baxter's probably playing the best rugby of his life," Waugh said.

In brighter news for the Waratahs, powerhouse No.8 Wycliff Palu has been cleared to play after sustaining a crack in his hand in last Friday's victory over Queensland.

With his game face already on, Waugh said he was over the pre-match hype surrounding the derby and hardly interested in speculating about the unbeaten Waratahs going outright top with a fifth straight win.

"It's irrelevant really," he said.

"I mean, you can talk about that stuff as much as you like but, at the end of the day, it's about performing tomorrow night.

"We're four from four but, again, that means very little tomorrow night.

"So we've got to improve if we're going to go further in this competition. We know we've got to improve."

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