Brumbies and Rebels trade boardies for boots in a heated first trial

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

A full-blown Super Rugby trial on Australia Day. In the middle of a record-breaking heatwave.

It may sound like a footballer’s nightmare but Brumbies veteran Locky McCaffrey is focussing on the positives that will come out of his club’s opening trial against the Melbourne Rebels in Canberra on Saturday night.

The World Cup - and an earlier Rugby Championship - has meant round one of Super Rugby has come forward a week too.

Thus, trials are a week earlier too and in a month when boardies and thongs are still the go for most, the Brumbies and Rebels are pulling on the boots and running back into the thick of it.

Footy on Australia Day would be hot regardless but this year the Brumbies and Rebels players also have to contend with heatwave at Viking Park.

After a record-breaking run in Canberra of 13 consecutive days above 32 degrees, the forecast is for 40 degrees on Saturday.

The temperature gauge will still be in the red section when the teams begin their game of three, thirty-minute halves at 6.30pm.

"I struggle with putting a bit of sunscreen on the head and it sweats off after a few seconds,” McCaffrey said.

"It will be warm. Normally it goes down about 7.30pm, quarter-to-eight, so I think the guys playing in the second half will be bit happier.”

It sounds uncomfortable but soaring mercury is actually welcomed by high performance coaches these days. 

Where once altitude training was the big trend, sports science now values training in intense heat just as much, and according to some, it's even better than thin air.

Heat training increases an athlete’s blood plasma volume, and in a number of other ways too, can develop fitter athletes.

It’s this benefit ahead of Super Rugby that McCaffrey is focussing on.

"It gets some cobwebs out and it blows you pretty early, so you don’t have to hopefully blow in round one, which is also positive,” he said.

Given the Brumbies have been training for weeks in a heatwave, McCaffrey figured they’d be more acclimatised than the Rebels but the Melburnians have been enduring a similar run.

And, in an ironic twist, there will be no huge advantage for either over their round one opponent, given the Brumbies and Rebels square off in the opener too.

After months of pre-season training, all players are itching to play in any case, reckons McCaffrey.

The veteran backrower will skipper the run-on Brumbies team, which has a decent look to it given there are no Spring Tour Wallabies players involved.

James Slipper, Tevita Kuridrani and new man Toni Pulu are all starting, along with rising youngsters Darcy Swain, Jordan Jackson-Hope and Rob Valetini.

"Now is just a good opportunity to put the hard work out onto the field. It is certainly not going to be perfect but it is a good opportunity tp push for selection for round one,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said.

"You look across the team and there are not many positions that are locked up, which is exciting. That’s the environment we want to have.”

Slipper’s arrival will make the starting props selection competitive but the biggest fight for Brumbies jerseys will come in the back row.

Wallabies backrower Pete Samu has arrived, and with David Pocock, McCaffrey, Valentini and Tom Cusack also in the mix, decent players will miss out.

"You think Pete Samu is in there now, McCaffrey, Cusack, Valetini … who have I missed? Hyney (Ben Hyne) is out injured and then obviously David Pocock,” McKellar said.

"Who have I missed, the best player in the world. So it’s pretty safe to say Poey will have his spot in the team, so there are two other back row spots up for grabs and tomorrow night is a chance for them to put their names forward.”

McCaffrey said the new faces in the Brumbies squad had offered a lot to the mix, and would help turn the team continue their late-season success from last year.

"Pete Samu is not playing but James Slipper, who has come in and such a quality player,” he said.

"He will add a huge amount of experience and will really fits in with the way we are trying to play with his skill level and smarts, being a genuine rugby. It will help us play the footy that the coaches want us to play."

The Brumbies host the Rebels at Viking Park on Saturday, kicking off 6:30pm AEDT. Entry is free. Live stream on the Rebels and Brumbies Facebook pages.


Brumbies team to face the Rebels

1. James Slipper

2. Josh Mann-Rea

3. Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin

4. Darcy Swain

5. Blake Enever

6. Rob Valetini

7. Tom Cusack

8. Lachlan McCaffrey

9. Joe Powell

10. Wharenui Hawera

11. Lausii Taliauli

12. Irae Simone

13. Tevita Kuridrani

14. Toni Pulu

15. Jordan Jackson-Hope



Jahrome Brown, Sam Carter, Murray Douglas, Vunipola Fifita, Connal McInerney, Lachlan Osborne, Tom Ross, Angus Wagner


Mack Hansen, Len Ikitau, Bayley Kuenzle, Ryan Lonergan, Noah Lolesio, Matt Lucas, Andy Muirhead Chance Peni, Tom Wright


Rebels squad to face the Brumbies

Cameron Betham

Rhys Brodie

Quade Cooper

Angus Cottrell

Mees Erasmus

Pone Fa'amasuli

Matthew Gibbon

Harrison Goddard

Esei Haangana

Richard Hardwick

Jack Hayson

Trevor Hosea

Luke Jones

Archie King

Michael Koko

Feta Luamanu

Justin Masters

Billy Meakes

Jon Mokofisi

Matthew Philip

Hugh Roach

Michael Ruru

Sam Talakai

Tasi Tautalatasi

Sione Tui

Semisi Tupou

Kemu Valentini

Beauden Waaka