Brumbies ready for Bulls challenge
Brumbies coach Jake White is looking forward to the Investec Super Rugby semi-final against three-time champions the Bulls in Pretoria next weekend.
The Brumbies survived a last-minute missed conversion attempt from Cheetahs first five-eighths Riaan Smit whose kick, which would have taken the match to extra-time, rebounded off the post and sent the Brumbies hurriedly packing their bags for an early morning departure.
"It doesn't get bigger for this group of players than a semi-final at Loftus Versfeld," George Smith said after the nerve-shredding denouement.
"I've heard it's a sell-out crowd of 50-60,000 people and they have an unbelievable track record when it comes to playing finals football and it's going to be a massive ask.
"We take a lot of confidence out of this win tonight and travelling to South Africa as a group and spending some more time together is a real plus."
White was quick to praise the vanquished Cheetahs who came within a whisker of sending the match into an extra 20 minutes with the momentum and looking the fresher and stronger of the two teams.
"We got lucky with that kick at the end there but when I look back on that game now, we played a game last week and we weren't good," he said.
"We had another hit out tonight and we will take confidence from the last two weeks that our graph has gone up and I have no doubt that the fact we played last week helped us because we got a nice start and we got some things right again.
"Take nothing away from Free State (Cheetahs), they were outstanding. They have been a good side this year and I always knew it was going to go to the wire and to the 80 minutes, luckily we got through the other side of that advantage line."
Such was the Brumbies' control of the match up until the dramatic finale, White freely admitted that he thought the game was done and dusted five minutes from full-time as the Brumbies survived a surge from the Cheetahs who battered away at the try-line to no avail until the final seconds when replacement Ryno Benjamin crossed in the corner.
"I was in the box with about four minutes to go and we got the scrum and I couldn't see them scoring from there," White said.
"I just thought, worst case scenario we may concede a penalty. When I got down into the tunnel and there was a line out on the 25m line I thought, well that's it, we will just defend and make sure we don't put numbers into the breakdown, but again that shows its finals footy and they go and score with about a minute left on the clock.
"We spoke about it this week, finals footy is played for 80 minutes and we had to play for 81 minutes to get the result."
As for next week, White is under no illusions that the task facing his young charges is a tough one but that the Brumbies have what it takes to stun the South African province.
"It's a South African side. We know what they are like," he said.
"They play with their forwards and they have a kicking 10 in Morne Steyn. So we have no doubt that it will be the same kind of bruising encounter but we showed when we played them here this year that we can beat them.
"So there is no reason why, if we prepare properly, we can't give ourselves a good crack of beating them."