Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said his tight-knit team was on the verge of doing "special things" after dispatching the Sharks in Canberra, and booking a semi-final with the Jaguares in Argentina.
The Brumbies claimed a club record seventh straight win with the 38-13 victory over the Sharks, which came via sparkling attack in the opening half-hour and a mighty defensive performance thereafter.
Though his night was soured with a hamstring injury that threatens his place on the plane to Buenos Aires, Peter Samu scored two tries and Henry Speight, Joe Powell and Matt Lucas all scored one each in front of a jubilant crowd of 11,117.
The Sharks threw the kitchen sink at the Brumbies in the second half, and had had 85% possession between minutes 40 and 70, but the ACT men defended their backsides off and refused to let the visitors back into the game.
If it was a final game in Canberra - the Brumbies may still host a final if they win their semi and the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders - it was a perfect farewell for Christian Lealiifano, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Henry Speight and six other squad members.
McKellar praised his team's first-half as good as they've played all year, and though normally reserves, kept the superlatives rolling by saying the team was not only defending as well as he's seen in Canberra, but the Brumbies are the most connected group he's seen in rugby.
"They're incredibly special - I have never seen a tighter group of footballers," McKellar said.
"We spoke about that again before (the game). There is a special feel and you don’t get that very often within a football team.
"And when you do have it you have to take advantage of it, and cash in. We are in that position at the moment. We have confidence, we have belief, we have a group of blokes who love playing footy together, who love wearing the jersey and representing our people.
"And when you have that, special things can happen. We’re excited about next Friday night and what lies ahead."
Applying superb strategy, the Brumbies sought space against the Sharks right next to the ruck and they struck gold inside a minute when Rory Arnold fed an inside pass to Samu for a 35-metre run to the tryline.
The big lock was involved again soon after when Scott Sio again tipped an inside pass to Tom Banks, who sped through and found Arnold, who in turn grabbed another try assist by putting Henry Speight.
When Samu was tailgunner for a rolling maul try in the 23rd minute, the Sharks were down three tries to nil and were rattled.
The Africans rallied and threw their big frames at the Brumbies, hoping to muscle their way through. But the hosts refused to yield, and worked hard for each other to mend any gaps in the resolute defensive line.
They scored one try via sustained pressure no more, and when man-of-the-match Joe Powell and his replacement Matt Lucas both scored in the last ten minutes, it was game over.
"It’s disappointing because through the year we were one of the top defensive teams and to concede those three flash tries early on really put us on the back foot," Sharks coach Robert Du Preez said.
"We had a lot of territory overall in the 60s percent, possession too, but we came up against a well-drilled, well-coached team."
McKellar said he was a very pleased coach.
"The first half was outstanding, we needed to get a good start and get the crowd in the game and put them on the back foot early," he said.
"Because they’re a dangerous side and we knew in a one-off game they would be dangerous. But our first 40 minutes is right up there with what we’ve produced this year. We had to do a lot of defending in the second half but we’re defending well. We’d like to do a little less of it but when we have to. We are defending very well."
After scoring five tries, you'd do well to guess the Brumbies only had 32% ppossesion for the game.
But they have the enviable knack of scoring via brief windows of opportunity and then shutting the door on their rivals.
"I said to the players before we warmed up that our defence has been as good we have defended since I have been at the club. We take a lot of confidence out that and on the other side of it, I think our attacking opportunities come off the back of good defence," McKellar said.
"Turnover ball and that sort of thing. So our game is in good shape. So are the Jaguares. We will freshen up, recover well and go over to Buenos Aires and get a result."TEAMS
Brumbies to face Sharks
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
16. Connal McInerney
17. James Slipper
18. Les Makin
19. Darcy Swain
20. Locky McCaffrey
21. Jahrome Brown
22. Matt Lucas
23. Tom Wright
Sharks to face Brumbies
1. Mzamo Majola
2. Kerron van Vuuren
3. Coenie Oosthuizen
4. Ruben van Heerden
5. Hyron Andrews
6. Jacques Vermeulen
7. Tyler Paul
8. Daniel du Preez
9. Louis Schreuder
10. Robert du Preez
11. Makazole Mapimpi
12. Andre Esterhuizen
13. Lukhanyo Am
14. Sbu Nkosi
15. Curwin Bosch
16. Cullen Collopy
17. Juan Schoeman
18. Thomas du Toit
19. Gideon Koegelenberg
20. Luke Stringer
21. Cameron Wright
22. Jeremy Ward
23. Rhyno Smith