Smith, Rath­bone and Nic White named for show­down

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

THE ACT BRUMBIES re­ceived a boost ahead of their Su­per Rugby play­off against the Chee­tahs when in­flu­en­tial scrumhalf Nic White was passed fit to start Sun­day’s match in chilly Can­berra.

Open­side flanker Ge­orge Smith, who won his 111th test cap against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions two weeks ago, also re­turns to the start­ing lineup af­ter com­ing off the bench in last week’s shock de­feat to Western Force.

Coach Jake White also sprang some­thing of a sur­prise yes­ter­day by bring­ing for­mer Wal­la­bies winger Clyde Rath­bone into his run-on side in place of cur­rent Aus­tralia in­ter­na­tional Joe To­mane.

Scrumhalf White, 22, has not played since frac­tur­ing his col­lar­bone against the Melbourne Rebels on June 7, the match which se­cured the twice cham­pi­ons a place in post-sea­son play for the first time since they won their sec­ond ti­tle in 2004.

Both Smith and Rath­bone started in the fi­nal vic­tory over the Can­ter­bury Cru­saders nine years ago and nei­ther would have been con­sid­ered likely to fea­ture at the start of the year.

Rath­bone re­turned to the Brumbies on a one-year con­tract af­ter three years in re­tire­ment, while Smith needed the per­mis­sion of his Ja­panese club Sun­tory to ex­tend his stay in Can­berra af­ter a sea­son- end­ing in­jury to David Po­cock.

“Bring­ing two guys like Clyde and Ge­orge into our start­ing side will give us ex­pe­ri­ence when we need it,” coach White said in a me­dia re­lease.

“Those two guys have both won cham­pi­onships at Can­berra Sta­dium and it’s ex­cit­ing to have them in­volved.

“The Chee­tahs are a side which has made huge im­prove­ments over the last two sea­sons and it’s a credit to them that they are now a com­pe­ti­tion threat.”

A win for the Brumbies to­mor­row would send them to South Africa to face the Bulls in the semi­fi­nals next week­end and the win­ner of the other play­off clash – be­tween Can­ter­bury Cru­saders and Queens­land Reds – to Hamil­ton to face the Waikato Chiefs.

If the Bloem­fontein-based Chee­tahs man­age an up­set in their first play­off match, they would go to New Zealand with the Cru­saders or Reds mak­ing the long trip to Pre­to­ria to play the sec­ond-seeded Bulls.

Chee­tahs coach Naka Drotske was able to name an un­changed side from the vic­tory over the Auck­land Blues two weeks ago as the South Africans bid for a fourth win in a row in Aus­tralia.

Cap­tain Adri­aan Strauss will lead the for­ward ef­fort from the mid­dle of the front row, while the Brumbies will be aware of the threat of Wil­lie le Roux on the wing.

Their week train­ing in mild weather in the Syd­ney sea­side sub­urb of Coogee will not have pre­pared them for the Can­berra chill, how­ever, with a max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture of eight de­grees Cel­sius and a chance of snow fore­cast for to­mor­row.

BACK IN THE FRAY: Clyde Rath­bone is set to make a re­turn to the Brumbies for the play-off match against the Chee­tahs to­mor­row.

GETTY IM­AGES

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