Unbeaten Brumbies chase win record

STREETS AHEAD::World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White has transformed the ACT Brumbies into a winning machine who lead the standings by six points

AFP, SYDNEY

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 18

Australia’s ACT Brumbies will be chasing a record-equaling fifth straight Super 15 victory against the Western Stormers in Cape Town this weekend.

The Canberra-based Brumbies are unbeaten this season under 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White and should they defeat the Stormers tomorrow, it will match the club’s best-ever campaign start.

The two-time Super Rugby champions lead the overall standings by six points and the Australian conference by 10, in a buoyant start to the southern hemisphere regional series.

The Brumbies are winning under White with just two established Wallabies — Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander — as opposed to their star-studded Australian rivals, the Queensland Reds and the NSW Waratahs.

Scrumhalf Nic White is the biggest injury concern and, as a precaution, back-up No. 9 Mark Swanepoel has flown to Cape Town to join the bench if White does not play.

The Brumbies will have their hands full containing the Stormers’ giant Andries Bekker in the lineouts. Bekker, at 2.08m, is the tallest player in the competition.

“If we try to shut Bekker down, hopefully it shuts down their whole lineout,” said Peter Kimlin, who is moving to lock for the Brumbies.

“That’s a big thing for their game. If their mauls and lineouts go well, it’s a foundation for the rest of their game and if we shut it down, hopefully it can shut down the whole team,” he added.

Fit-again Springbok Juan de Jongh is to start at outside center for the Stormers, in his first competitive match of the season after a hamstring injury.

All Black Richard Kahui may make his comeback for the defending champions the Waikato Chiefs in today’s New Zealand derby against the Otago Highlanders in Hamilton.

Kahui, 27, has had shoulder reconstruction surgery this season, and is bracketed on the bench with Patrick Osborne.

Liam Messam is to be honored at the game for becoming the first player to clock up 100 matches for the Chiefs.

“We are expecting a similar battle to our first-round game against the Highlanders. It was physical and fast, and this week will be nothing less,” Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said.

The Queensland Reds will be without in-form flanker Liam Gill, 20, for tomorrow’s home game against the Northern Bulls of South Africa.

While the Reds are to be boosted by the long-awaited return of skipper James Horwill and two Wallabies backs in Digby Ioane and Anthony Faingaa, Gill, who is out with a knee injury, has consistently been Queensland’s best player over the first five rounds.

Wellington-born Jarrad Butler is to make his starting debut at openside flanker in Gill’s place.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has named an almost new side following last weekend’s big loss to the Canterbury Crusaders.

Fullback Zane Kirchner, outside center J.J. Engelbrecht, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, No. 8 and captain Pierre Spies, flanker Deon Stegmann and loose-head prop Morne Mellett are back in the starting lineup.

The Auckland Blues are coming off a bye and take on the struggling NSW Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday.

Beaten in three of their four games, the Waratahs face another testing task against the resurgent Blues.

In tomorrow’s other games, the Crusaders host South Africa’s Southern Kings in Christchurch and the Western Force tackle the in-form Central Cheetahs in Perth, while the Wellington Hurricanes have a bye.