Brumbies vs Bulls: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Brumbies have consolidated their Australian conference lead with a bonus-point win over the Bulls.

What are we talking about after that 22-10 win?

1. Brumbies take their chance

We have seen it so many times this season - an Australian team has a gap on the rest of the conference or a chance to propel themselves up the rankings but a loss snuffs out that hope.

Well, not the Brumbies.

The ACT outfit consolidated their conference lead on Friday night, ensuring they are out of the Rebels’ reach for another week.

They have arguably the easiest run home in the final three weeks with the Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Waratahs in Sydney and the Reds at home, giving them a crucial advantage in the final rounds.

Something that is not up for debate is their form - the Brumbies have now won five of their past six matches and six in a row at home.

With a conference win guaranteeing a home quarter-final spot, the Brumbies could certainly be more than just a one week and done team should they stay ahead of the Aussie pack.

It’s up to the Brumbies to ensure they can take that advantage.

2. More than one string on the Brumbies bow

We were never quite subscribed to the “one-trick pony” conversation around the Brumbies and they showed on Friday night that those labels have been unfair this year.

Against some of the best maul defenders in Super Rugby, the Brumbies changed tack with their set piece.

They looked for width off the back of lineouts and scrums and it paid off - just ask Tevita Kuridrani.

Bulls centre Burger Odendaal and winger Rosko Specman both admitted they were not prepared for the Brumbies’ attacking weapons.

The South Africans came to the capital anticipating a forward-heavy, physical battle and the Brumbies caught them unawares.

It’s not the first time they have unleashed some clever ball movement this season but the Brumbies display reinforced the strings they have in their bow.

3. Lesser lights becoming mainstays

Probably the biggest compliment you can give this Brumbies side is that when watching them, David Pocock isn’t the first name you’re thinking of.

Pocock hasn’t played since March and McCaffrey has been absent for the best part of the last month as well and though they are very valuable players, the Brumbies backrow has filled their void.

Pete Samu was overlooked in the last Wallabies camp, after he was unavailable for a gathering earlier this year, but he is making it hard not to select him for the World Cup after another impressive outing.

Samu was willing to bide his time at the start of the year behind Pocock McCaffrey and Rob Valetini but he might not be so easy to displace.

The backrower was powerful on Friday night and won a pivotal penalty late in the game as the Brumbies began to get a roll on.

Samu is hard to take down no matter the circumstance and has shown his ability in open space as well as in tight this season.

Jahrome Brown won a game-turning turnover and Tom Cusack churned through an immense amount of work as well, setting the tone for the rest of the side.

With McCaffrey returning through club rugby and Pocock’s Super Rugby return still a possibility, there will be some tough selection decisions to make as the season goes on.

4. Bulls’ challenge gets tougher

The Bulls have taken a 1-1 record from the Australian legs of their four-week tour but things are about to get a whole lot tougher for them.

They were already without captain and flyhalf Handre Pollard against the Brumbies, and though replacement Manie Libbok worked hard, Pollard’s absence was noticed.

Friday’s acting skipper Duane Vermeulen will return to South Africa immediately as well, as part of a Springboks pre-World Cup rotation policy, leaving them without another big name.

They came into this weekend on top of the South African conference but it seems unlikely they will still be there by the end of this weekend.

In a super-tight conference, this loss could be as costly for the Bulls as the win was valuable for the Brumbies.

5. Kuridrani storming into Wallabies season

Tevita Kuridrani is on a super vein of form at exactly the right time of the season for the Brumbies and the Wallabies.

A career-first hat-trick was the icing on the cake of an impressive performance from Kuridrani against the Bulls on Friday night.

He finished with seven carries for 55 metres and beat six defenders along the way.

Kuridrani looks incredibly dangerous on both sides of the ball and if this form continues, it will get more and more difficult to overlook him at 13.