TEAM NEWS: Speight returns for Brumbies, McKellar makes tough calls for quarter-final

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Star speedster Henry Speight will return to the Brumbies side to take on the Sharks in their quarter-final in a week where coach Dan McKellar had some brutal calls to make.

Speight has missed the past two matches with a foot injury but the 31-year-old has been cleared for the sudden-death match in a boost for the ACT side.

Wingers Speight and Toni Pulu return to the backline while Tom Cusack and Pete Samu start in the backrow ahead of Locky McCaffrey and Jahrome Brown.

Aside from Speight who was injured, that group were all given a lighter load or sat out last weekend's win over the Reds entirely after playing a heap of minutes this season.

McKellar said they had earned their starting spots from their form throughout the season.

Pulu and Speight's returns, along with a 6-2 bench, come at the cost of speedster Andy Muirhead, who McKellar said understood the decision.

"I gave those guys you mentioned a lighter week last week, they've performed really well and got us to this point in the season and the stage we're at," he said.

"Would be a pretty harsh call to then go and say, 'Boys, you're not in the 23 this week'. 

"I feel for guys like Andy Muirhead - he's a quality bloke, quality footballer, who's performed really well over the last couple of weeks and just  couldn't be prouder of his reaction when I had the tough conversation with him.


"He's just like, 'I'll do my job, Dan and I'll get in and prepare well and make sure the team's ready to go on Saturday night'. You've got to admire that."

McKellar said Muirhead's response was indicative of the whole squad's attitude towards the season and a reason why they finished on top of the Australian conference.

As a coach at this stage of the season, it's pleasing to be in a position to have to make those decisions but you always feel for the individual," he said.

"As I said, Andy's response was first class. It says a lot about him as a person and it says a lot about why we're in the position we're in now.

"We spoke about it being a 40-man squad effort and the boys are living that."

On paper, the Sharks' seven wins puts them well below the Brumbies but the Durban outfit have shown their strength this season, drawing with the Crusaders in Christchurch and beating a number of sides on the road this season.


Those results are ones that McKellar has noted keenly. 

"They're the only team that has come away with points out of Christchurch for a long time," he said.

"So, one off game - they're going to be dangerous.

"Typical South African side, big men, set piece, speed on the edges, so we're well aware of their threats but we'll continue to focus on getting our performance right."

The Sharks will be without scrum weapon Tendai Mtawarira for the clash after the loosehead injured his knee but McKellar said that didn't make them any easier to face.

"Like any Super Rugby team, they lose quality, they'll replace it with quality," he said.

The Brumbies take on the Sharks in their Super Rugby quarter-final at GIO Stadium on Saturday June 22, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.

TEAM

Brumbies to face Sharks

1.Scott Sio

2. Folau Fainga'a

3. Allan Alaalatoa

4. Rory Arnold

5. Sam Carter

6. Rob Valetini

7. Tom Cusack

8. Pete Samu

9. Joe Powell

10. Christian Lealiifano

11. Toni Pulu

12. Irae Simone

13. Tevita Kuridrani

14. Henry Speight

15. Tom Banks

Reserves

16. Connal McInerney

17. James Slipper

18. Les Makin

19. Darcy Swain

20. McCaffrey

21. Jahrom Brown

22. Matt Lucas

23. Tom Wright