Brumbies take confidence from new player depth

Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham says that their heavy injury toll through the 2014 Super Rugby has had a silver lining as it has improved their depth.

Larkham says that the level of depth in the squad has given them confidence of avoiding a repeat of the fade that hit them in the final against the Chiefs last year.

In 2014 the Brumbies have used 36 players which means that almost everyone in their squad – and a few others that weren’t – have played Super Rugby this season and they know their role if they are to be called upon.

In 2013 the Brumbies had a home qualifier and then traveled to South Africa where they beat the Bulls before making their way back to Canberra and then Hamilton to contest the final.

The Brumbies tired in the second half of last year’s Super Rugby final and their replacements bench gave the hosts a major boost when the Brumbies bench could not.

Larkham feels that 2014’s horrific injury run will ensure that the same does not happen again.

The Brumbies had to field a second string team against the Waratahs after the June break but last week for their match against the Force a number of stars returned while Wallabies Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane and Fotu Auelua came off the bench.

“The beauty of that is that guys in a really good (injury) run wouldn’t get the opportunity, particularly at Super Rugby level,” Larkham told the Canberra Times.

“That’s improved our depth going into this finals campaign compared to last year.”

“The opportunities those guys have got certainly gives them confidence and the experience to allow us to have confidence when they come off the bench.”

Larkham says that the last 20 minutes of matches are especially important in finals and that the depth they have created will stand them in good stead.

The Brumbies have one of the worst point differentials for the last 20 minutes in Super Rugby but neither Larkham nor director of rugby Laurie Fisher believe that finishing off games was a problem they are suffering from.

Fisher says that it is not so much that their bench depth is different but more that they way the used it.

“That was something that came out of last year’s game – perhaps we didn’t use our bench as wisely as we could have,” he said.

“We had more players we could have given more time to. I don’t know if they had better players, they just used them better.”

Larkham said that Robbie Coleman has a hip injury and would be pushing in to return to the match day 23 and they are now just five players who will be unavailable to take on the Chiefs – Stephen Moore, David Pocock, Siliva Siliva, Conrad Hoffmann and J.P. Smith.

Smith’s knee injury could open the door for Australia under-20 prop Allan Alaalatoa to make his Super Rugby debut and Larkham expects to finalise the team Tuesday’s training sessions.

Larkham and the Brumbies are in a confident mood ahead of the qualifier as they have already beaten the Chiefs (41-23) once this year.

“Knowing that we’ve beaten them this year and beaten them at home, I think the guys can take a fair bit of confidence from that,” Larkham said.

“Also we played some really good football (against the Western Force) … and I think we’ll reflect on the game that we played in round 11 and look at those opportunities and tie the two games together a bit.”

While the Brumbies comfortably beat the Chiefs in their last meeting the champions were playing without a number of All Blacks such as Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick and in particular No.10 Aaron Cruden.

“That’s obviously a great boost for them, he’s a wonderful general and tremendously skilful player,” Fisher said.

“He adds a totally different dimension to the game.

“Cruden’s a massive threat in his reading of the game. He’s got the capacity to step and go and he’s got the offload game as well.”

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