Super Rugby
Balanced Brumbies learned lessons on 2013
From Brett McKay in Wellington
June 26, 2015
Super Rugby Preview: Semi-finals

Travel experience within the cut-throat world of knockout rugby and a deliberately light, but focused preparation is what the Brumbies are saying will get them home against the Hurricanes in Saturday night's Super Rugby first semi-final in Wellington.

A large chunk of the current Brumbies squad endured the horror Canberra-Pretoria-Hamilton playoff travel schedule in 2013, where the fatigue factor ultimately kicked in with less than fifteen minutes on the clock against the Chiefs. Already, Canberra to Cape Town to Wellington isn't looking much better.

Brumbies Head Coach, Stephen Larkham, said that much like last week's successful qualifying final trip to Cape Town, the team's ability to overcome and accept the travel schedule presented, and the sooner they get on with the job of preparing for the Hurricanes, the better off they'll all be.

The Brumbies ran out of gas in the closing 15 minutes of the 2013 final © Getty Images
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"It's been a similar week to last week when we went over to South Africa," Larkham said. "We had a light day on the Tuesday, then a double session on the Wednesday, and then Thursday off before the Captain's run. So again this week, we had a light run on Tuesday - a bit of a pass and kick - and then a double day Wednesday; units in the morning and a team run in the afternoon. And then we travelled to New Zealand [Thursday].

Some SANZAR generosity this week meant the Brumbies could get over the ditch a day early, and have their usual match-eve Captain's run on Friday at Westpac Stadium. Away team priority even meant they could force their hosts to take the morning Captain's Run time slot, allowing the Brumbies to resume their regular pre-game routines with an afternoon session.

"It's a difficult trip to Wellington [from Canberra]," Larkham said this week. "You've got a 6:30am start, or you've got a 4:30 in the afternoon start and then you get in at midnight. They're not ideal times to travel and SANZAR have been kind enough to give us an extra night's accommodation, so we've taken that."

Brumbies skipper Stephen Moore agrees that it's important his team recovers well from the travel components as soon as possible, and get their sleep patterns and body clocks on track in order to complete their preparations by Saturday. Equally important, though, is keeping the balance between not overloading in the build-up to the semi-final, and ensuring the players have enough petrol in the tank late in the game. Moore agrees there are lessons to be learned from the Brumbies hitting the wall late in the 2013 final.

The Brumbies will be without the suspended Henry Speight in Wellington © Getty Images
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"Yeah, that's really important, and it is going to be important this week [to get the balance right]," Moore said. "I think we saw two years ago, that was certainly a factor for us, and I guess this time around, I feel like our squad is probably a little bit stronger and bit more experienced.

"Those [players] 16 to 23, when they get the opportunity at the back end, they can come on and really make the difference, and when I think back to that 2013 final, the Chiefs guys that came off the bench really turned the game for them; guys like Augustine Pulu and Bundee Aki came on and really made an impact. That tells you that you need all 23 players to be able to go the journey, and we're certainly going to need that on Saturday."

Though he spoke of finals experience, Moore isn't so sure the Brumbies can claim any great advantage, despite the fact that few of the Hurricanes have played too many Super Rugby playoff matches.

"Certainly, their leaders have played in a lot of big games; guys like [Conrad] Smith and [Ma'a] Nonu, and those kind of senior players. They're certainly going to be knowing what's important this week, so I'm not sure it's a big advantage."

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For the players themselves, they know what's coming. They've literally played their season out for big moments like Saturday night; the ultimate test against the very best sides. And that will mean quick turnarounds, difficult travel schedules, and tough preparations.

Thinking on similar lines to his coach, master openside flanker, David Pocock, thinks familiarity will be a big boost.

"I think we'll get the prep right," Pocock said. "I mean, it's a pretty similar week to flying to South Africa on the Monday - we've taken it a bit easier earlier in the week, but we'll get the prep done. Obviously, it's a totally different opposition. "The Hurricanes; the form team of the comp, All Blacks all through their side, and even a few more now [All Blacks coach Steve Hanson included eleven Hurricanes in his 41-man squad last Sunday, including uncapped players, exciting utility back Nehe Milner-Skudder and lock James Broadhurst].

"That's the challenge of it, and that's exciting to go over there - we haven't played the Hurricanes yet this season - and to take on the best team in the comp."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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