Vodacom Super 14

Rathbone thrown lifeline

2009-05-11 14:34
Back for the Brumbies (Gallo Images)
Canberra - Former Wallaby wing Clyde Rathbone has been thrown a Super 14 lifeline by the Brumbies with a shock start in their do-or-die final round clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend has put Rathbone on alert to line-up against All Blacks strike weapon Sitiveni Sivivatu in Friday night's final-round encounter just weeks after it appeared his career was over.

The loss of centre Gene Fairbanks to a torn hamstring has forced Friend to shift Australian skipper Stirling Mortlock back to his preferred centre position and call on Rathbone out wide.

Continual problems with his chronic knee injury have grounded the 26-Test South African-born flyer for the last three years and again he's been restricted to just a handful of games this season.

Off-contract at the end of the year, Rathbone's future is in limbo but he was delighted to be given one last opportunity to impress as the fifth-placed Brumbies aim for their first semi-finals finish since 2004.

"Whenever you're injured you have to give yourself the best chance," he said in Canberra on Monday.

"I've been training as though I'm going to be playing every week and hoping there might be an opportunity there so it is a bit of a lifeline."

Friend backed Rathbone's experience to help him meet the huge challenge after a lack of match practice in a game where the Brumbies need to score a four-try bonus point and prevent the second-placed Chiefs from gaining a solitary competition point to assure a play-off berth.

On top of Fairbanks, the Brumbies have suffered another blow in losing skilful blind-side flanker Mitchell Chapman from a severe concussion in the 37-15 win over the Blues.

Julian Salvi will come into the back-row while Mortlock (neck) and hooker Stephen Moore (hamstring) were confident of shrugging off their fitness concerns.

As difficult as it is to prevent the red-hot Chiefs - who possess an outstanding back three in Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina and Lelia Masaga - from scoring four tries, the Brumbies took heart in the defensive effort against the Blues.

The Aucklanders scored just two tries in their loss, the first time they haven't picked up a bonus point all year.

"We'll take that as a win for our defence," said Friend.

"We know going over there to Hamilton that's going to be tough ask because they have a very similar (attacking) side.

"But if we've done it once, we can do it again."

A wary Friend indicated the need for four tries wouldn't impact much on the way his side starts the clash but admitted it may dominate halftime discussions.

The Brumbies hold a strong record against the Chiefs, winning nine of 14, including four of six in Hamilton.


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