With a number of players moving on at the end of the season, 2016 looms as a pivotal year for this group of Brumbies.
INS AND OUTS
IN: Tomas Cubelli (Belgrano), Albert Anae (Benetton Treviso), Nick Jooste (Perth Spirit), Andrew Smith (Montpellier), Aidan Toua (Agen)
OUT: Nic White (Montpellier), Jesse Mogg (Montpellier), JP Smith (Stormers), Siliva Siliva (Rebels), Fotu Auelua (released), Sean Doyle (Munster)
The Brumbies split their trial results, with a nail biting loss to the Waratahs in Wagga before a dominant victory over the Reds at Ballymore. The latter probably tells observers more with a close to full strength side lining up in Queensland and showing glimpses of the form that propelled them to a 2015 semi final.
Why they could win
The Brumbies have kept things very much the same with their personnel heading into 2016, with Argentinian Tomas Cubelli the only big-name addition to the side. Their key playmakers are fit and firing, with Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano looking set to reignite their partnership. Continuity will elude them in 2017 with a handful of players leaving the club, though, a fact of which the ACT franchise is well aware.
Where they need to improve
The Brumbies limited opposition scores better than anyone in Super Rugby last season but there’s room to improve in their attack. The good news is they have one of the most electric backlines in the competition and with the addition of Aidan Toua at fullback they will only continue to improve.
Superstar: David Pocock
The Brumbies have more than a handful of current and former internationals in their side but Pocock is the standout. The 27-year-old was the Brumbies’ best in his return from two knee reconstructions in 2015 and fell just short of being crowned the world’s best player after an outstanding Rugby World Cup. Whatever happens next year, the Brumbies will need a firing Pocock to improve on last year’s result.
X Factor: Tomas Cubelli
The Argentinian scrumhalf is still mastering English but the language of rugby is one in which he is well versed. He has a strong running game and while his passing might not be as strong as his predecessor in Nic White, Cubelli will add a different dimension to the Brumbies in 2016.
Rising star: Jarrad Butler
Butler faces a tough challenge at the Brumbies in trying to break into a starting back row role but recent season have shown he can take the opportunity when it presents. The 24-year-old stepped up in the absence of an injured Pocock and was a standout in the NRC in 2015.
What the coach says:
“The biggest thing for us is our attack. We felt that last year it wasn’t as successful as it should’ve been. We spent a fair bit of time in the preseason still working on our set piece which was a real strength last year but trying to modify our multi-phase attack so that we do score more tries through multi-phase.”