Brumbies face early kickoff after scheduling stuff-up

The Brumbies celebrate a try in their round 15 Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty
The Brumbies celebrate a try in their round 15 Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty

The Brumbies are hoping a hot pie handout and the return of David Pocock can help them make a success of their quarter-final against the Highlanders on Friday night despite scheduling stuff-ups and Canberra's frigid weather giving them an unusual 6pm (8pm NZT) kickoff.

The ACT side will host the Highlanders in the opening match of Super Rugby's playoffs but it will be played in an unprecedented 6pm slot, which could affect both the size of the crowd and the TV ratings.

The kickoff time was a compromised result of the Brumbies failing to book Canberra Stadium early enough to stage a Saturday game in the first finals weekend, leaving it free for the Canberra Raiders.

The Raiders play the Warriors on Saturday afternoon but also have two lead-up games, starting with the Raiders' Holden Cup team at 10.30am. All three games will be televised, meaning they couldn't be moved.

That proved crucial in why the Brumbies and SANZAR had to settle for playing at 6pm. Due to heavy frosts in Canberra settling around 9pm and lifting late on Saturday morning, ground staff can't repaint logos and sponsors on the turf for the league any later.

The Brumbies discussed a Sunday afternoon final with SANZAR but it was decided the logistics were unfeasible for a team who may have to travel to South Africa for the semi-finals. They would only arrive there on Wednesday.

Tickets began selling well for the Brumbies on Sunday, despite the 6pm start, the club is incentivising early arrivals by announcing they'll give hot pies to the first 2000 people through the gates at Canberra Stadium on Friday.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham, meanwhile, is sweating on a doctor giving Pocock the all-clear to return for the quarterfinal against the in-form Highlanders.

Pocock fractured his cheekbone playing for the Wallabies against England in Brisbane last month and was given a six-week recovery diagnosis.

Friday night will be just a few hours short of almost exactly 42 days but the Brumbies must get a green light this week for Pocock to lace up his boots.

"It depends when we can get (a clearance) from the doctor. There is a time period from the initial injury that we had to wait for. Depending on when that is, we will make a decision," Larkham said.

"He trained with us in the week and trained week, and do did Joran Smiler. They have to get cleared by the doctor but it looks like they're on track to be in contention to be selected."

Pocock trained with a custom-rigged face-pad last week for the Brumbies but it's unknown if he plans to wear it in games.

Pocock's return would obviously be hugely influential for the ACT side, who were unconvincing in securing the top ofthe Australian conference on Saturday night against the lowly Force.

Despite claiming their first conference title since 2001, and completing the first ever clean sweep of Australian sides in Super Rugby, Larkham said the Brumbies' shed was downcast after the sloppy Force win.

The ACT side failed to progress their 24-10 halftime lead in a second period of mistakes and overall inertia.

It didn't inspire confidence that the Brumbies form was enough to threaten the Highlanders, who finished second in the Kiwi conference and boast a lethal 6/8 record against top eight teams this year - the best of any finalist.

But Larkham said the Brumbies won't linger on their form against the Force.

"It's irrelevant. It is what we do this week now," Larkham said.

"You have your ups and downs in this tournament, and certainly the second half is a half we aren't happy with. But it is all irrelevant now. You put it behind you, you take the things out of it you can take out of and you move on to the next job."

The Highlanders beat the Brumbies 23-7 in Invercargill this season.

- news.com.au

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