Super Rugby Qualifiers - Brumbies v Cheetahs
Joe Tomane benched, Cheetahs unchanged
July 19, 2013
The Brumbies' Clyde Rathbone scores a try against the Rebels, Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Canberra Stadium, June 7, 2013
Clyde Rathbone showed against Melbourne Rebels he could still perform at the top level © Getty Images

Brumbies coach Jake White has promoted Clyde Rathbone to the starting side at the expense of Wallabies winger Joe Tomane for the Super Rugby qualifier against the Cheetahs at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

White included Rathbone, 31, for his finals experience, as he and flanker George Smith were part of the Brumbies' 2004 Super Rugby title-winning team, and the winger's selection polishes a solid comeback year after retiring in 2009 due to injuries. Yet the move will still leave many pundits scratching their heads as Tomane only two weeks ago won his second Wallabies cap in the third Test against the British & Irish Lions.

Rathbone started in the first three games of the season, but he has since played just 94 minutes in 13 rounds of Super Rugby. His two tries against Melbourne Rebels in round 17, followed by a strong performance in the epic win over the Lions, was enough to prove to White that the South Africa-born winger could still perform at the top level.

"There was an element of surprise given how much respect I've got for Joe as a player and the fact he is in the Wallabies," Rathbone said of his selection. I thought I was a fairly good chance of being involved in some capacity, and that's just knowing Jake and how much of an emphasis he places on experience. The fact that I've got a crack ahead of [Tomane] has probably surprised a lot of people."

Rathbone will provide the side with a calm head and leadership qualities he began honing while captaining South Africa to win the 2002 Under-21 Rugby World Cup. He said a lot of what he'd contribute to the team would be in the build up to the Sunday afternoon kick-off at Canberra Stadium. "The major factors that determine winning or losing happen way in advance of the game itself," he said. "So I see my role in this group trying to make sure that from an attitudinal perspective and the mental side of it the guys are ticking all the boxes."

Rathbone had no idea at the start of the year that his comeback season would pan out so well. "If you offered me the season that I've had, a win against the Lions, and to be in this position now where we have given ourselves a crack at the title, I would've taken it quite greedily," he said.

Having already announced that George Smith would start against the Cheetahs, having started from the bench against Western Force, White also recalled Nic White for his first match since sustaining a shoulder injury in round 17.

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Clyde Rathbone; Matt Toomua, Nic White; Ben Mowen, George Smith, Peter Kimlin; Sam Carter, Scott Fardy; Benn Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Silivia Siliva, Ruan Smith, Fota Auelua, Colby Faingaa, Ian Prior, Andrew Smith, Joe Tomane.

Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller; Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule; Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl; Philip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne, Heinrich Brussow; Rynhardt Landman, Lodewyk de Jager; Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain); 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Petrus Vermeulen, Johannes Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Ryno Benjamin.

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)

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