ACT Brumbies coach Jake White wants his players to ignore the ”war” build-up against the NSW Waratahs and focus on their perfect start to the Super Rugby season.
Although White is playing down the rivalry between the teams, the coach has invited the chief of the Australian Defence Force to provide pre-match inspiration on Friday.
General David Hurley will present the Brumbies with their jerseys at the team’s last training session before it takes on the Waratahs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
White has created a tradition of calling on former Brumbies or high-profile people to speak to his team at the captain’s run before games.
Club legend Brett Robinson had the duties for round one. Author Bryce Courtenay stepped into the change rooms last year. But White doesn’t want a Churchillian speech from Hurley.
”General Hurley has seen things and had to experience things, making tough calls as a leader,” White said. ”The message I want him to pass on is making decisions and being true to what you believe in. He’s the head of the Defence Force, he knows what brings the best out of that group because he does it every day of his life. It’s not about talking about being in the trenches … it’s about someone who deserves to hand the jerseys out, and General Hurley is a leader.”
White will name his team on Thursday for the round-four clash, with Brumbies legend George Smith to make a comeback on the bench. Fijian flyer Henry Speight has also proved his fitness and will be pushing for a spot in the starting XV after missing round two with a rib injury.
White could put Speight back into the starting side to join Clyde Rathbone, and move Joseph Tomane onto the bench.
Tomane, Speight and Rathbone have been fighting for the two wing spots in the pre-season. Speight and Rathbone started the season together. However, Speight left the field in pain in the opening game and was given an extra week to overcome a rib problem.
The Brumbies will take 26 players to South Africa for their games against the Durban Sharks and Cape Town Stormers.
Barring injuries, that squad will likely be made up of the 22 that take on the Waratahs. Three other players will also be included as well as Pat McCabe, if he gets through unscathed in his comeback for the ACT XV on Thursday night.
White is likely to make minimal changes to his squad to ensure the Brumbies have continuity as they chase three straight wins to start a season for the first time since 2005.
He also hopes the return of 110-Test Wallaby Smith and the rivalry with the Waratahs attracts more than 20,000 fans to Canberra Stadium.
It also is a chance for Brumbies on the cusp of Wallabies selection to show Test coach Robbie Deans they can match it with the Waratahs’ stars.
”Every time you play a derby game, it’s important for you to stake your claim,” White said. ”Players all say, what do I do to become a Wallaby, what more must I do? It’s simple: you’ve got to play well against the people who are the incumbents.
”It doesn’t matter if I downplay it or not talk about it … if it’s South Africa or Australian derby games, they’re the benchmark.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.