McKellar wields axe as Brumbies crowd shrinks

Super Rugby
by AAP

Frustrated Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has declared the axe is looming for some of his underperforming players.

The first-year Super Rugby mentor blasted his team for blowing a 14-point lead against Melbourne on Saturday night.

The Rebels' unbelievable 27-24 win ends any finals aspirations the Brumbies had as they sit 14th on the overall ladder, only in front of the Sunwolves.

McKellar believed his side "lost the unloseable" and it wasn't good enough, forecasting changes for the Brumbies' two-game stint in South Africa.

"You review it and you've got to start learning and some aren't doing that, so I'll have to make changes. It's frustrating," McKellar said.

"It's about 2018 and not about 2019 or beyond that but we've got to start to learn from the mistakes that we're making."

A "gutted" Brumbies co-captain Christian Lealiifano, who was returning after a two-game spell, echoed McKellar's thoughts.

"We spoke out there about momentum shifts and how we're going to manage them and I just feel like we're banging our heads up against a brick wall," Lealiifano said.

"We've got to do something. Whether it's a big change or adjusting something, we're sitting here really frustrated with just seeing the same stuff."

The woes are extending to off the field, too, with the Brumbies playing in front of their second-lowest ever crowd for a home game.

Just 5283 supporters turned out at GIO Stadium on Saturday night for the clash with Melbourne.

That figures sits only behind an attendance of 4000 back in 1999 when the Brumbies smashed the South African-based Bulls.

A Rugby League World Cup match between France and Lebanon attracted more fans (5492) at the same venue last October.The GIO Stadium stands were all but empty on Saturday. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile it was a cold Canberra night against the Rebels, the turnout for a conference derby is of concern to the Brumbies and Rugby Australia.

It adds to the frustration of Australian teams losing 39 straight games against New Zealand opposition, with the second anniversary of the last win fast approaching.

"It's really sad to be honest, as a rugby union person," Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.

"It was obviously a cold, damp evening. Everyone in this room and here tonight wants the game to be thriving. The reality is at the moment it isn't.

"Our form is playing a part of that and I've got to front up and take ownership of that 100 per cent.

"I want our boys playing in front of 15,000 people - people I know care about them."

Several factors can be to blame for the turnout, including a delayed push for a new stadium in Canberra close to the city centre, but the Brumbies aren't alone with their crowd struggles.

The highest figure for a Super Rugby game in Australia this year (16,135) came when the Rebels lost to the Hurricanes at AAMI Park.

Even a NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds rivalry match at the SCG in April saw 15,648 fans come through the gate.

The Brumbies are averaging 8464 supporters a game this season, which is inflated by playing in the NSW Waratahs in front of 13,515 fans.

The Western Force, who were controversially axed from the competition last year, attracted a crowd of 19,466 in their World Series Rugby game against Fiji on May 4

On the injury front, prop Scott Sio will be in doubt after failing a head injury assessment in the first half, as will flyhalf Wharenui Hawera, who went off with a leg injury.

 The Brumbies now set sail for a daunting trip to South Africa, where they'll face the Lions.