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Brumbies 31, Highlanders 3

The Brumbies could do themselves a huge favour by taking a long hard look at the Waratahs’ loss to the Highlanders last week.

Jan de Koning – Rugby365

The most significant difference is that the game is not being played in the far-south of New Zealand, but in Canberra.

However, one thing is certain – despite their improved showing against the Reds last week, the Brumbies can ill-afford to underestimate the Highlanders.

While the South Islanders have won just six of 14 against the Brumbies – and just once previously in Canberra – the Highlanders’ six wins have all been achieved within the last 11 matches that have been played between these two sides, since their breakthrough 9-8 success at Dunedin in 1999.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend acknowledged that his team will need to reproduce the same energy levels and accuracy that secured them the win over the high-flying Reds last week.

“We were pleased with our last performance against the Reds, but realise that we need to build on that and find that level consistently if we are to stay alive in this competition,” Friend said.

“I’m confident that we can do that and we’ll be looking to send off George [Smit] and Stirling [Mortlock] in the appropriate manner this season,” he said about the veteran duo’s last appearances at the Canberra Stadium.

Highlanders fullback Israel Dagg said he and his teammates had been buoyed by the convincing win over the Waratahs in Invercargill and would travel to Canberra with renewed confidence.

“Our forwards stepped up a notch in Invercargill and laid a great platform for the backs. We played for the full 80 minutes and there weren’t the lapses of concentration there had been in earlier matches,” he told the Otago Daily Times.

“We want to finish off with two more wins. The Brumbies and Reds are both in semis contention and we want to spoil their buzz. We’ve just got to take the same attitude we had against New South Wales to Canberra and Brisbane.”

Dagg acknowledged the Brumbies would be a challenge.

“They’re a good team and they’ve got some great players,” he said.

“There’s [Matt] Giteau and [Adam] Ashley-Cooper and they’ve got some top forwards like Stephen Hoiles and Mark Chisholm. They had that big win against the Reds last weekend so they’re going to be tough.

“But I definitely give us a chance. We’ve just got to have the right attitude, put our heads down, hoe into them and be direct and physical.”

The Highlanders are in 12th place on the standings as they conclude the season with a week-long visit to Australia for matches against the semifinal chasing Brumbies and Reds.

Super 14 results:
2009: Brumbies won 33-31, Dunedin
2008: Brumbies won 22-20, Canberra
2007: Brumbies won 29-10, Dunedin
2006: Highlanders won 28-26, Canberra

rugby365.com Prediction: Seven of the last 11 games between the Brumbies and Highlanders have been determined by the margin of a converted try or less. That is a good indication of the history between these teams. However, history will count for nothing on Saturday and it will be up to the team that wants it most – the side with the biggest desire. We feel the Brumbies will take it – by 15 points.

Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Andrew Smith, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Brackin Karauria-Henry, 22 Ed Stubbs/Stirling Mortlock.

Highlanders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 James Paterson, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Jimmy Cowan (captain), 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Chris King.
Replacements: 16 Peter Mirrielees, 17 Keith Cameron, 18 Joe Tuineau, 19 John Hardie, 20 Scott Cowan, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Jayden Hayward.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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