Brumbies hooker Robbie Abel says there’s a special feel around this Brumbies crop, as they prepare for a Super Rugby litmus test this weekend.
Abel is set to take the hooking reins on Saturday against the Highlanders, with a knee injury forcing Josh Mann-Rea out of the starting spot.
Sitting on top of the Australian conference after four matches, the Brumbies have their first trans-Tasman Test on Saturday night, an opportunity to answer many preseason critics.
With so many off-season departures, including former captain Stephen Moore, winger Joe Tomane and playmaker Matt Toomua, the Brumbies weren’t among many finals calculations, but Abel said they never felt out of contention.
“I feel we’re on the right track,” he said.
“We've always felt as a group that we have something pretty special here, so it’s just always been about putting those things into action.
“We’ve always felt here coming through preseason and building over the last little while that we feel like there’s something here in our group and we have a lot of potential and a lot of youth.
“We really have nothing to lose so we’re just putting it all out there.”
While they’ve experimented somewhat in the opening month, Abel said they wouldn’t be moving too far away from their trademark rolling maul, a tactic that lost its lustre through 2016 but has underpinned their early success this season.
“Doesn’t matter to us what anyone else thinks of the rolling maul or that as a tactic, I think,” he said.
“We’ll stick to the things that work for us and that have done for the Brumbies rugby for many years.
“I don’t see any reason to go away from those things.”
Prop Allan Alaalatoa has been a key driver in the Brumbies’ run and the tighthead is expecting another grind against the bottom-placed New Zealand side.
“Our history with the Highlanders has always been a game with a lot of grind so it’s going to be another hard-fought game up front and just looking forward to the opportunity,” he said.
The club has issued a call-out to fans, amid speculation over the club’s future as SANZAAR decisions linger.
CEO Michael Thomson, coach Stephen Larkham and co-captain Sam Carter all urged fans to head to Saturday’s clash with the Highlanders to ‘show what the Brumbies mean to this city’.
“The club is committed to a long future in this city,” Thomson said in a statement..
“We believe we are more than just a rugby team. We are proud representatives of Canberra and the region on the national and international stage.”
“We have had several enquiries regarding the best way to show your support and passion for Brumbies Rugby and the best way to do that is through your action.
“By turning up to this weekend’s match against the Highlanders to cheer the team on, you can help to show what the Brumbies mean to this city.”
The Brumbies host the Highlanders on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.