Brumbies’ backs coach Stephen Larkham during Brumbies training at Canberra Stadium, Bruce. Photo: Melissa AdamsTwo-time Super Rugby winner Stephen Larkham is adamant the new generation ACT Brumbies are ready to face do-or-die pressure in the finals, nine years after he led the club to its last championship.
But the retired champion five-eighth has warned the Brumbies they must put their bodies on the line and be prepared for an intense battle if they want to stay alive in the Super Rugby title race.
Larkham was the chief playmaker when the club won its championships in 2001 and 2004.
Now as the backs coach he’s trying to help an inexperienced side deal with the expectations of playing in the finals.
Just four players in the Brumbies’ 35-man squad – George Smith, Clyde Rathbone, Ben Mowen and Ian Prior – have play-off experience.
”It’s not a [regular season] game any more, it’s different to what we’ve come up against in the last nine years,” Larkham said.
”We can reflect on the history of the Brumbies, but this is a new team.
”It’s do or die, there’s everything to play for. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past or where we’ve come from, it’s all about one game.”
The Brumbies will play the Free State Cheetahs at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
If they win they will fly to South Africa on Monday morning to take on the Pretoria Bulls.
The Brumbies were one of the most dominant teams in the competition in the early 2000s, playing in four finals and winning two.
The Brumbies won the title in 2004 despite the players being at loggerheads with coach David Nucifora.
Going into the season, 12 players, including most of the team’s Wallabies, had been signatories to a letter urging the Brumbies administration to address problems they had with Nucifora’s style.
One of the major concerns was that he didn’t embrace their ideas in formulating game plans. It resulted in the players taking increased responsibility for game plans and in the final the Brumbies beat the Canterbury Crusaders 47-38.
But Larkham said the past was dead with coach Jake White ushering in a new generation of stars.
”It’s a totally different year to what we had back then … we were building confidence because we felt like we were doing it ourselves [in 2004],” Larkham said.
”We felt as though we had control on the year and we had accountability which in years past, we’ve lost a bit of that.
”We’re back to that stage where guys are diligent, put their hands up when they make mistakes, and working towards that goal.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.