‘Brumbies can com­pete with Ki­wis’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

CAN­BERRA: Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham be­lieves his side, who se­cured the Aus­tralian con­fer­ence title on Satur­day, can com­pete with New Zealand teams in the Super Rugby play­offs.

A 32-3 vic­tory over the Mel­bourne Rebels, com­bined with de­feat for the Waratahs at the hands of the Chiefs, gave the Can­berra-based Brumbies a place in the post­sea­son for a fifth suc­ces­sive year.

They achieved it with a los­ing record (6-7), how­ever, and with­out a sin­gle vic­tory over one of the New Zealand teams, who have a 23-0 record against Aus­tralian sides this year.

De­spite that mis­er­able record, Larkham be­lieves the Brumbies are not too far away from the level of their five Trans-Tas­man Sea ri­vals, one of which will al­most cer­tainly be vis­it­ing the Aus­tralian cap­i­tal in the first round of play­offs.

“We’ve had a pretty good fo­cus on try­ing to beat New Zealand teams for a while now,” Larkham said in a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing Satur­day’s game.

“We haven’t done it for a while but if you look at our games we had the Hur­ri­canes at half-time, we’ve lost our other ones against New Zealand sides by less than seven points. So, we’re work­ing to­wards cre­at­ing a bet­ter bal­anced game and we’ve been do­ing that all sea­son. We feel that if we get it right, we should be able to match it with those guys.”

The Brumbies have two more reg­u­lar sea­son matches re­main­ing af­ter the June in­ter­na­tional win­dow to sharpen their skills be­fore the play­offs – away to the Reds – on July 7 – and the Chiefs a week later.

“It’s not about get­ting to the fi­nals, it’s about win­ning the fi­nals,” said Larkham, who will be leav­ing the club at the end of the sea­son to take a per­ma­nent po­si­tion in the Wal­la­bies set-up. We’ve got to make sure that the push from now un­til the end of the competition is harder than it’s ever been.”

There is only one game this com­ing week­end, when the de­fend­ing champions, the Hur­ri­canes take on the Chiefs, sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively, in their con­fer­ence, in a mas­sive New Zealand derby. – Reuters

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