Advantage Brumbies in Super 14 semi race - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Advantage Brumbies in Super 14 semi race

By Darren Walton 02/05/2010 02:43:46 PM Comments (0)

The sleeping giants have awoken and, suddenly, the Brumbies have the inside running in the mad dash for a Super 14 rugby semi-finals berth.

While the defending champion Bulls took a giant stride towards the minor premiership with a 27-19 triumph over the Sharks in Pretoria, predicting the remaining three playoff sides remains a lottery after another weekend of upsets and drama.

The Brumbies entered round 12, seven points adrift of the top four and 50-1 long shots for the title, but now loom as the most likely Australian side to squeeze into the semis, after crushing injury-hit Queensland 32-12 in Canberra on Saturday night.

The Brumbies piled on four unanswered tries in the desperately-needed bonus-point victory to close to within two competition points of the fourth-placed Reds.

If results go to form in the penultimate round, and the Brumbies account for the lowly Highlanders at home on Saturday, the ACT franchise will find themselves in the four, heading into a do-or-die last-round clash with the faltering Crusaders in Christchurch.

Brumbies' coach Andy Friend has no doubts his star-studded line-up - dubbed the Real Madrid of Australian Super 14 rugby in the pre-season - can make a late title charge after finally clicking into top gear.

"A hundred per cent. I firmly believe we can," Friend said.

"We obviously need to continue to play like that, play with real belief and energy and for each other.

"If we can do that next week, that obviously takes us one step further and then we'll see what happens beyond that."

The Reds, though, appear vulnerable to being swamped by the chasing pack.

Eyeing a home semi-final, before stumbling yet again in the national capital, the Reds will head to Wellington, needing to conquer the fast-improving Hurricanes on Friday, or face the prospect of plummeting to seventh on the ladder.

Queensland finish the regular season at home against the Highlanders, but the semi-final ship may have sailed by then, if they can't rebound from their 15th loss from 16 Super rugby showdowns with the Brumbies.

The NSW Waratahs remain in fifth position, one point behind the Crusaders and Reds, despite their surprise 26-10 loss to the Highlanders in an arctic Invercargill.

The second-placed Stormers did NSW a huge favour by trouncing the Crusaders 42-14 in Cape Town, and the Waratahs received a further boost on Sunday when classy pair Benn Robinson (forearm) and Rob Horne (buttock) arrived in New Zealand to strengthen the squad.

Robinson and Horne face more fitness tests during the week, but coach Chris Hickey is hopeful both will be available for Saturday's must-win tussle with the disappointing Chiefs in Hamilton.

Should they prevail, the Waratahs would then also have to beat the Hurricanes in the final round to remain in the playoff mix.

The fast-finishing Hurricanes are equal sixth with the Brumbies, after snatching a 33-27 bonus-point win over the Chiefs in Wellington.

Regardless of which trans-Tasman sides make the playoffs, it seems inevitable they will confront mission improbable in South Africa.

The Bulls look nigh unbeatable at home, after registering their 17th consecutive victory on the high veldt of Loftus Versfeld, and need just one bonus point from their games against the Crusaders and Stormers to lock up a semi-final spot.

One win would be enough for the titleholders to host a semi-final.

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