Preview: Chiefs v Brumbies
Over-coming some daunting history is the task ahead of the Brumbies when they play the Chiefs in the final of the Investec Super Rugby competition in Hamilton today, but at the same time the defending champions have won only a third of their matches against the men from Canberra.
LAST TIME: Chiefs 29 def Brumbies 22, Round 4, 2012 at Mt Maunganui
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga/Robbie Robinson, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Bundee Aki, 22 Robbie Robinson/Patrick Osborne.
Brumbies:15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Andrew Smith, 22 Joe Tomane.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock; Garrat Williamson
TMO: Vinny Munro
Wing Lelia Masaga was a concern due to an ankle injkury, especially after his game-breaking try in the semi-final. Tanerau Latimer sat out early training this week but that is not unusual. While the Brumbies reported some bruised and battered bodies after their win over the Bulls they were reported to be in good shape for the final.
Clearly to reach the final both sides are at the peak of form, certainly their endurance has been well and truly tested. As top qualifier for the finals the go in with 14 wins and four losses to the Stormers (away), the Reds (home), the Waratahs (away) and the Crusaders (away).
The Brumbies have 12 wins and two draws having lost to the Stormers (away), the Crusaders (home), the Waratahs (away) and the Force (away) which all points to remarkably similar records.
Their points differential is 94 to the Chiefs and 135 to the Brumbies. And both teams are on target to set points records for their franchises.
The best season for the Chiefs was last year when they scored 501. They have 478 so far this year. The Brumbies' best is 487 set in 2004 and they have 471 so far this year.
History can tell a lot on such significant rugby occasions and while the Brumbies defied that history to beat the Bulls, they have some even bigger hurdles to cross to take home the Super Rugby title.
No team has ever won the final after having to cross the India Ocean after their semi-final. The only team to win a final outside their own country were the Crusaders, against the Brumbies, in 2000.
Another factor is how much last weekend's semi-finals took out of both sides. Given the magnitude of their wins, that has to be a factor.
The opportunity will be there to see different tactical plans but it promises to be an even more intriguing contest than some other finals of recent times.
The Chiefs were vulnerable at the lineout last week. The loose forwards battle could go a long way to settling the issue with so much experience, and potential, on display.
Goal-kicking will be another factor and the Chiefs will be mindful of the fact the Brumbies are close to breaking the record of 66 penalty goals by one team in a season.
That was set by the Crusaders last year and to date the Brumbies are on 64. Having played and won last year's final the Chiefs know what it takes to win.