The challenge for Stephen Larkham is to block the wash from the Wallabies series loss and get the Brumbies galloping. The Brumbies had momentum leading into the June test window with a bye and three victories in the month.
The Brumbies first performance of the Super Rugby season against the Hurricanes was a blistering start and a rugby master class. After a month in a Test window with the Wallabies coach Larkham would be ecstatic with a similar performance.
After all the turmoil in Canberra this year and the shocking three to nil loss to England it will be a credit to this group of men if they can bounce back and secure some silverware.
Will the players carry scars from Test series, or will they care? Only tonight will tell..
The Brumbies players that have represented the Wallabies during the June Test window have had a mixed bag. Stephen Moore has had a solid campaign but will be reeling from leading the Wallabies clean sweep series loss.
Scott Sio, Rory Arnold and Sam Carter have all been replaced throughout the series. Scott Fardy was again solid but did not hit the same heights as during the Rugby World Cup. David Pocock sustained a fractured eye socket injury during the Test series and his impact on the Wallabies and Brumbies win ratio cannot be underestimated.
Forwards win you matches. Backs determine by how much. An all-round performance is needed from the Brumbies to remain in top spot.
The Wallaby backs that will be running out for the Brumbies will also be delicate. Christian Lealiifano, despite celebrating the birth of his first child, should have started the Wallabies First Test but instead had limited game time throughout the series. Tevita Kurindrani also had a quiet series and needs to be more destructive for the Brumbies leading the charge into the final series.
Matt Toomua in his first game in two months reinforced the fact that the Wallabies missed a second playmaker of the Matt Giteau mould. Toomua was a welcome addition for the Wallabies and proved his importance as a playmaker. The Brumbies would welcome his form in his first match since April after overcoming injury.
Henry Speight and Joe Tomane the Brumbies two world class finishers are unavailable.
If you I had a choice of fixtures in the final three rounds I would prefer the Brumbies run home. Matches against the Queensland Reds and the Western Force in Canberra. The Auckland's Blues away has always been a bogey team for the Brumbies in Auckland since my early days of Super Rugby including their championship victory in Eden Park against Canberra in 1997. In more recent years they have destroyed our hopes on a couple of occasions despite being out of contention.
The Waratahs match against the Sunwolves this weekend is a 'lay down misere' for a bonus point victory and five points on the ladder. They follow up with a home game against the inform Hurricanes and an away game against the Blues. It might be whatever Blues team turns up for the last two games that decides the top of the Australian Conference.
For both teams winning will not be enough and bonus points may still come into contention. I remember months ago yelling at the TV screen as the Brumbies played against the Bulls scoring three tries in 52 minutes and then bumbling to the full time hooter. I remember at the time hoping that that hopefully does not come back to bite them and jeopardise a finals berth or a Super Rugby home final.
The Waratahs have picked up six bonus point compared to the Brumbies two. While the Brumbies have been disappointing in reinforcing winning leads the Waratahs last minute tries against the Stormers and the Bulls had me once again screaming at the TV.
Top spot in the Australian conference makes things a lot easier. The Brumbies have shown they can mix it from lower positions on the table but history will also tell them that travel can leave you a couple of gears short in the final strides for that final victory.
Let the race begin and may the best team win. Go the Brumbies!!!