There’s not exactly a target on Sonny Bill Williams’ back but the Brumbies are keen to stop the the cross-code megastar in his tracks on Sunday afternoon.
Williams has been consistent for the Blues since his return from an achilles injury and the All Black is in the sights of ACT playmaker Wharenui Hawera.
In his first Super Rugby season, Hawera has come across plenty of household names but he admitted on Friday that Williams would be a special one.
“I am looking forward to it actually,” he said.
“He's a phenomenal player and I’ve come up against a few great 12s already this year so he's just another one to add to the list, hopefully I can stop him in his tracks.”
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said they hadn’t been consumed with stopping the New Zealand centre, with a number of threats across the Blues’ backline.
“When you've got a pretty good backline like they have, you can't focus too much on one player so we've certainly got a plan for Sonny and we've got a plan for a few other players in their backline as well,” he said.
When it comes to plans, the Brumbies’ focus for their own is making sure they find the sweet spot between the scintillating rugby that produces season-best tries like Joe Powell’s against the Hurricanes and managing to hold on to the lead they yield.
“We've got to pick and choose when we do that (run with the ball) and we've also got to have our basics right,” he said.
“We started a bit of a momentum shift within the team three rounds ago against the Reds and there were certainly some really good passages there and I think we've seen that over the last couple of weeks as well.
“There's been a really good combination on the field with the boys.
“They're enjoying their rugby, they've scored some magnificent tries and particularly playing at home, we want to make sure the crowd are getting entertained and into the game because that lifts the boys.”
Hawera has his own challenge with finding balance, after a super first half was cut down by an early yellow card against the Hurricanes, that cost the Brumbies crucial momentum.
“I'm learning I've got to live and die by the sword and I learned in that first half what I can do by flatting up on attack and playing all my options but in the second half I learned what can happen if I get things a little bit wrong,” he said.
“So I’m just trying to find that balance...and hopefully executing that for a full 80 minutes.”
Tom Banks comes straight into his preferred fullback spot after three tries in the John I Dent Cup last weekend, with Aidan Toua on the bench as part of the Brumbies’ rotation plan.
Sunday’s game is a crucial opportunity for the Brumbies, on top of the Australian conference, against New Zealand’s bottom side, who sit above the ACT side on points, to prove they can beat a Kiwi side and break the trans-Tasman drought the entire conference has battled.
Scott Sio will miss the clash with a knee injury, though Larkham was optimistic about the prognosis after the prop’s meeting with a surgeon on Thursday.
The Brumbies host the Blues on Sunday afternoon, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.
IN: Les Makin, Tom Banks
OUT: Scott Sio (knee), Nigel Ah Wong
Brumbies team to take on the Blues
1. Nic Mayhew
2. Josh Mann-Rae
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Rory Arnold
5. Sam Carter (C)
6. Scott Fardy
7. Chris Alcock
8. Lolo Fakaosilea
9. Joe Powell
10. Wharenui Hawera
11. James Dargaville
12. Andrew Smith
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Tom Banks
16. Robbie Abel
17. Ben Alexander
18. Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin
19. Blake Enever
20. Jarrad Butler
21. De Wet Roos
22. Jordan Jackson-Hope
23. Aidan Toua