Finegan: Brumbies can't rely on "Pocock effect"

Super Rugby
by Owen Finegan

The Brumbies will be underdogs heading into their quarter-final on Friday night, but there are three players who will be the key to their success.

The ACT franchise has beaten every Australian team in the competition for the first time since 2007 but managed just one win over New Zealand teams after a scintillating win over the Hurricanes in round one.

The great thing about finals rugby is that it allows you to forget the past, move on to the next job.

These two sides have played once this season, with the Highlanders coming out on top, but the Brumbies were without co-captain Stephen Moore, who stayed home.

Moore's presence as captain, his leadership, influence on the team and set piece control is what the Brumbies require and they missed that hugely in April.

The Brumbies missed Stephen Moore's on-field leadership in their loss to the Highlanders in round 10. Photo: Getty ImagesWith the return of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman set piece dominance will be more difficult to eke out and Moore's performance will be crucial.

The Brumbies scrum and lineout has worked efficiently and been an effective attacking weapon all season and it looms as a consistent defensive threat as well.

Scott Fardy will need to be at the top of his game. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyDavid Pocock's influence will be another element in the Brumbies triangle to define Friday night's game.

Pocock was in dominant form prior to his injury during the international series and his presence has been missed by the Brumbies. That said, the Brumbies can't rely on the "Pocock effect" to be the game changer.

The Highlanders forwards showed great skills in general play as they upset the Chiefs, offloading through contact and keeping the ball alive to put the Chiefs under pressure.

The challenge for the Brumbies is getting the balance right between their set piece attack and their more expansive game.

Their world class international finishers Henry Speight and Joe Tomane are both unavailable for the rest of the tournament but they have Test players from nine to 13.Argentinian international Tomas Cubelli can be a game breaker for the Brumbies. Photo: Getty ImagesThe final player of the Brumbies' game changer is scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli.

Cubelli has added an extra dimension to the Brumbies attack in the last couple of weeks setting up numerous tries and proving a handful for opposition.

His impact was massive against the Force and just as noticeable was his second half absence and Cubelli will need to play for 80 minutes against the best halfback in the world Aaron Smith.

Cubelli's defensive work in his match up at halfback that will be important. Smith is a difficult prospect in attack, taking pressure off his five-eighth, sniping around the edge of the ruck with his running game and creating opportunities for his forward runners. The Brumbies and Cubelli need to target Smith and put as much pressure on him as possible.

Rugby is a game of momentum and if the Brumbies are clinical and take their opportunities they are a chance of upsetting the Highlanders.

The final ingredient comes off the pitch.

The Brumbies crowd needs to be roaring on Friday night as their team vies to make it through one more week.