Jake to silence Loftus faithful
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - The Brumbies have made their intentions clear ahead of their Super Rugby semifinal showdown with the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld this weekend - they want to silence the usually vociferous Loftus faithful.
According to the supersport.com website, it is no state secret that Loftus is an intimidating venue for opposition teams, and the hostile nature of the Bulls fanatical fans in full flow often has as much an effect on teams as the altitude, but the Brumbies know that the easiest way to take the crowd out of the equation is to make a lot of noise of their own by crossing the tryline.
Consider their first half performance against the Sharks in Durban earlier this year, where they put on four tries to lead 26-3 at the break, stunning the home crowd and leaving much of the game to be played in deathly silence.
Traditionally the crowd at Loftus has been an important factor, but they tend to follow the trend of becoming silent when their team falls behind, waiting for some action to start the momentum again.
Brumbies coach Jake White has been on both sides of the Loftus crowd, and once admitted it was his dream to coach the Bulls as a youngster. The former Bok coach will be doing everything in his power to ensure the crowd is not a factor in the Brumbies’ play this coming weekend.
White has been reasonably successful before – the Brumbies fell just four points short last year at Loftus – and led the way early in the game before the Bulls overcame their early shock to storm their way back into the game. Catch-up rugby is certainly something that Bulls coach Frans Ludeke won’t want his charges to do this weekend.
With a sell-out crowd expected, there is little doubt the Brumbies’ fans will vastly be in the minority, and the visitors will spend much of their time this week trying to ensure they control the atmosphere, and not the home side.
But considering the Bulls have won 22 out of the 24 matches against Australian teams in the past five years, are unbeaten at home this year and haven’t lost to the Brumbies at Loftus since 2006, the Brumbies know they are faced with a tough task.
Add to that the Bulls factor that they have won all five playoff games at Loftus Versfeld in Super Rugby history and White will be hard at work trying to bring those odds down.
''The one thing that really hit me [at Canberra Stadium on Sunday] was when the Cheetahs scored it was deathly silent, but when we got on a roll the crowd got louder and louder and that's exactly what's going to happen next week,'' White told the Canberra Times.
''In a lot of ways we've got to play the crowd silent.''
Brumbies legend George Smith had the belief they could win on foreign soil and set up the chance of winning his third title.
''You're going into a foreign land against a foreign crowd, a crowd that's very biased towards their team, so you've definitely got a few challenges there,'' Smith said.
''In all cases the best way to silence a crowd is to score points on them early, or show your intent early in the game. We'll definitely look at the way we prepared for [the Sharks game] … and the way we came out in quite a fast-paced start to that game will definitely be something we'll try to achieve.''
The Brumbies arrived on Monday night and will be based at a well-known casino complex in Johannesburg as they prepare for the game.