Super Rugby Qualifiers - Brumbies v Cheetahs
Jake White dreaming of Crusaders final
Brett McKay
July 18, 2013

The Brumbies have made a phenomenal turnaround under Jake White.

Think back to 2011, truly their annus horribilis: 13th place in Super Rugby in a year when player power got out of hand, and when the first club outside New Zealand to taste Super Rugby glory removed two coaches before the season was out. White was employed for four seasons from 2012, and he inherited a squad from which more than 10 senior players were lost after that infamous and worst season in the club's history. His mantra from the start was to return the Brumbies to their former glories, and to create "the best rugby program in the world" in Canberra.

White recruited smartly for his first season, but with no major names of profile - not compared with the ilk of Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who departed. Instead he punted on fringe players desperate for a chance, like the skinny Brisbane Broncos NRL reject he spotted playing fullback in ACT club rugby. When he took over, he had three regular Wallabies at his disposal.

The coach's goal from the outset was simple: "I want to be Super Rugby champions," he said when I first interviewed him, for The Roar in August 2011. Pushed to name a timeframe, White suggested his third year at the helm would be realistic, but, with some canny recruitment and a rapid turnaround, it could happen sooner. And sooner, it might. Recruitment doesn't get much cannier than David Pocock, for the start of the 2013 season, or coaxing George Smith back from Japan in lieu of an off-season. Better than that, though, White now has a squad with two seasons more experience, with upwards of 10 Wallabies, and with belief; they see no reason why they can't lift the Super Rugby cup in 2013.

And on that topic, the media player below features an interview with Jake White ahead of taking the Brumbies into the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time since 2004. After beating the British & Irish Lions in June, it's a happy time in the capital right now.

Click "PLAY" to hear White cover off topics including:

  • The ideal lead-in to the playoff, via the British & Irish Lions and the Western Force;
  • concerns or otherwise of finishing third;
  • whether the Brumbies' attack can finish off what their defence provides;
  • the ongoing topic of penalties conceded in their own 22;
  • and who the Brumbies will play in the Super Rugby final on August 3.

On the final topic, White's preferred opponent is somewhat surprising even if his reasoning is simultaneously logical and romantic.

Jake White is calling the shots in Canberra © Getty Images

"The best-case scenario is we'd like to be playing the Crusaders in Canberra," he said.

But the best-case scenario - and for the Brumbies, it definitely is - is going to take a fair bit of achieving. For one thing, it will involve the top two teams in 2013 losing semi-finals at home after sitting out the first week of the play-offs.

"If it stays the way it is, the Chiefs and Bulls will come first and second," White said. "We'll come third, the Crusaders will come fourth. We'll play whoever comes sixth [the Cheetahs, then play the Bulls at Loftus then come home. And the Crusaders will end up beating whoever finishes first [the Chiefs] and then come back here. That would complete the loop from 2004; another final, against the Crusaders, you know. At home, that would be, like you said, who would you wish to play, that would be the dream final for us.

"And win it, obviously ..."

Follow live text commentary of the Super Rugby qualifier between the Brumbies and the Cheetahs on Sunday, July 21, from 5.45pm (NZT), 3.45pm (EST), 6.45am (GMT)

The home-and-away season did not finish as the Brumbies would have liked (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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