Brumbies hope demanding travel schedule works against Highlanders

Scott Fardy of the Brumbies (left) wins the ball off Highlanders loose forward Liam Squire in their clash in Invercargill earlier this year. Photo / Getty Images
Scott Fardy of the Brumbies (left) wins the ball off Highlanders loose forward Liam Squire in their clash in Invercargill earlier this year. Photo / Getty Images

They'll kick off in the middle of peak hour but the Brumbies are hoping a campaign urging bosses to let Canberra workers off early will see them still play in front of a bumper crowd on Friday night at Canberra Stadium.

But the real benefit of hosting the opening Super Rugby final, hopes Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham, could come late in the game as travel-induced fatigue kicks in for the Highlanders.

"That certainly plays a part in it," Larkham said.

"There is an element of fatigue that you might fool yourself with at the start of the game, thinking I can push through this but by the end of the game there is certainly that element there."

Not unlike the Western Force or even the Brumbies at times, geography isn't kind to the Highlanders as far as travel goes. There are limited flights to Otago in the deep south of New Zealand, and to make connections the Highlanders often have to set off a few days earlier than most.

The defending champions left home on Tuesday and spent two nights in Auckland before flying most of Thursday to Canberra, via Sydney.

That journey came after they only arrived back Buenos Aires midway through last week, ahead of a punishing clash with Chiefs at home.

Though earned through SANZAR's rules of each conference winner getting a home quarter-final and not points - the Highlanders had nine more than the ACT - Larkham said his team had relished a pre-finals week at home.

"The familiarity of captains run, of training at home the whole week, is certainly a bonus," Larkham said.

"The fact we don't have to travel (helps). Just thinking back to the Auckland game we had ten hours of travel the day before the game which made it really difficult."

Scheduling mix-ups with the Raiders have seen the Brumbies staging a 6pm final. The early kick-off has the potential to reduce crowd size, but the club has started a #knockoff4kickoff hashtag and chief minister Andrew Barr channelled Bob Hawke earlier this week by saying any boss who sacked a worker for leaving early to go to the Brumbies "is a bum".

In fairness, the Brumbies will need every advantage they can get against the Highlanders. The Brumbies have been some way off their best form in recent times but the Kiwis have, like all New Zealand teams, been in outstanding touch.

Indeed, the Brumbies are left carrying the torch for a battered Australian conference who won just 3 games in 25 matches against Kiwi rivals this season.

Larkham said the lopsided trans-Tasman record will mean nothing when the clock hits six on Friday.

"It's irrelevant now, isn't it? Your form prior to this game is irrelevant," Larkham said.

"It is what you put down on the paddock. Any team in this competition can win the competition. We copped criticisms as Australian teams throughout the year but it is all irrelevant now.

"We have a lot of respect for them but we have done a lot of work this week for what they're going to throw at us."

The Brumbies learned plenty of lessons from their loss to the Highlanders in Invercargill earlier this year, said captain Stephen Moore. Chiefly, they need to outsmart the Kiwis.
"We probably need a bit more variation in attack," Moore said.

"We saw they don't contribute a lot of players to the breakdown and they like to have a lot of people on their feet, in the line.

"They force us to play a lot, and probably in the wrong parts of the field too much. We need to be a bit smarter in where we play tomorrow night, and we will take our opportunities when we see them.

"And also in the physical element of the game. In these games, the physicality and who dominates in that part of the game is really important. Tomorrow will be the same."

- news.com.au

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