Brumbies seek to close gap on leaders


The unbeaten Hurricanes cannot be overtaken at the top of the overall standings this weekend as their nearest rivals Waikato Chiefs also have a bye along with the Melbourne Rebels.

The unchanged Canberra-based Brumbies have won on two of their last three visits to Eden Park and prop Scott Sio is expecting a torrid forwards battle with the inconsistent Blues on Friday.

“One of the points that came out of our meetings was that six of their eight forwards are All Blacks. They have a wealth of experience and you can't take that away from them,” Sio said.

“If you have a look at their games, they haven't lost a game by more than 12 points this season.

“They've been in every match and we're expecting them to really throw themselves into the game.”

Auckland will be without experienced All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock with a head injury.

The last time the two sides met in April last year the Brumbies kept the Blues try-less in a 26-9 win.

Defending champions NSW Waratahs have Wallabies Adam Ashley-Cooper and Tatafu Polota-Nau back from injury for their home game on Saturday against South Africa's Western Stormers.

Ashley-Cooper has been out for almost two months with a knee injury while hooker Polota-Nau is making his return on the bench after being sidelined by a head knock.

The Stormers have lost their last three games but Waratahs defence coach Nathan Grey has warned his team to be on their guard.

“They've got a lot of young guys who are trying to play their way and trying to play really well at this level,” Grey said.

“That's exciting for them, but it's also dangerous for us. They back themselves to play from anywhere on the field.”

The Waratahs are trying to catch up on the Brumbies in the Australian conference and trail them by six points.

The Golden Lions will test their play-off ambitions in Saturday's South African derby against the Coastal Sharks in Johannesburg.

The Lions have hit back since losing their first three matches in South Africa before winning three games on their Australasian tour and downing the Northern Bulls at Ellis Park last weekend.

The Lions lie 10th with 17 points, but only three points separate them and the fifth-placed Highlanders.

“We've achieved nothing yet. We've got to keep grinding out results, week after week, and if you get ahead of yourself now then you're on the wrong path,” said Lions coach Johan Ackermann.

The Sharks and the Bulls lead the South African conference, with the Bulls facing the beleaguered Queensland Reds in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Reds have lost six of their seven games and left former Wallaby skipper James Horwill at home after he received a one-match ban for a red card offence last weekend.

Coach Todd Blackadder has made three changes in his forward pack for the home game against the Otago Highlanders on Saturday.

Joe Moody and Owen Franks are the starting props, while Jimmy Tupou will be at lock alongside Sam Whitelock, and All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has returned from paternity leave.

In this weekend's remaining match, Western Force take on South Africa's Central Cheetahs in Perth on Saturday.– AFP

Original source: Brumbies seek to close gap on leaders