Vodacom Super 14

Brumbies out for third win

2009-02-26 08:04
Force flyhalf Matt Giteau

Sydney - The Brumbies will be looking for a more commanding performance against the troubled Western Force this Saturday after nerve-jangling opening victories in the Super 14 series.

The Brumbies have been the masters of brinkmanship in this season's southern hemisphere provincial championship, pipping defending champions Crusaders with a conversion after the fulltime siren last week and needing a last-gasp drop goal to down the Highlanders.

The Bulls lead the Super 14 with a maximum 10 points after two rounds ahead of the Waratahs and Brumbies who are on nine points each.

The Brumbies will be favourites to remain unbeaten this weekend against the Force, who have been rocked by the announcement that their Wallaby flyhalf Matt Giteau is quitting to return to the Brumbies next year.

The Force, who laboured to a 16-10 win over the Cheetahs at home last weekend, have been in turmoil with uncertainty over their other leading players and coach John Mitchell.

But it is a different mindset with the Brumbies whose new coach Andy Friend is confident there is further improvement in his two-time winners.

"You couldn't ask for a better start, actually you could ask for 10 points instead of nine points," Friend said.

"(But) we're very happy with where we're at and what we've achieved to date, albeit only two wins, but we'll keep building on that."

The Bulls will get a chance to maintain their unbeaten start with a local derby against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Pretoria-based Bulls have run over the Reds and Blues in their opening two home games and are looking to build up their points ahead of a challenging five-match tour of New Zealand and Australia in March and April.

In the club's first rotational change of the season, Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle makes his debut run-on start at the expense of Derick Kuun, who has been one of the Bulls' form players this season.

The Waratahs will face an injury-depleted Highlanders at home on Friday after also encountering an understrength Waikato Chiefs last week.

The Waratahs were hammered by the local media for their "ugly" 11-7 win over the Chiefs and will be looking to be more free-flowing against the struggling Highlanders.

"They're pretty direct, they've got a big forward pack and there's no doubt that we'll have to win that battle up front before we can play some footy," Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said.

The Crusaders have received a massive boost ahead of their Super 14 derby with the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Friday after All Black forwards Richie McCaw and Brad Thorn were cleared to play.

McCaw has recovered from a concussion during the opening round victory over the Chiefs, while lock Thorn is over a heel injury.

Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper has made eight changes to the side who left it late before beating the Highlanders last weekend, with regular skipper Rodney So'oialo back after serving a one-match suspension.

The Blues have been boosted by the return of winger Joe Rokocoko, scrumhalf Taniela Moa and flanker Jerome Kaino ahead of Saturday's match with the Stormers in Cape Town.

They arrived late in South Africa after being on hand for the births of their first children in Auckland.

In the weekend's other games, the Chiefs host the Durban-based Sharks in Hamilton while the Reds are back home from South Africa to tackle the Cheetahs in Brisbane on Sunday.

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