Star Folau hasn’t scored a try in his past three games against the Brumbies, but the ACT side is on edge waiting for the 29-year-old to cause havoc.
Then there’s Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper and the potential return of Nick Phipps to cause headaches when the Waratahs get fast ball. So the only way to stop them is to give them no freedom.
“They’re dangerous, they’ve obviously got a heap of Wallabies so that speaks for itself,” said Brumbies back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey.
“They’re dangerous across the pitch, they’ve got some really good backs and if they get front-foot ball they’ll be hard to stop. I guess it’s the forwards’ job to try to make sure they don’t get front-foot ball.”
Lock Sam Carter added: “They’ve got a mobile pack and use a lot of skill and width. But nothing changes for us, we need to front up in the forwards and make sure they don’t get the ball they want.”
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will be forced to make at least two changes to his starting XV for the rivalry contest after Allan Alaalatoa (wrist) and David Pocock (calf) were injured last week.
Les Leuluaialii-Makin is expected to start in Alaalatoa’s front-row role, while Tom Cusack is expected to move into the No. 7 jersey and McCaffrey to return to the back of the scrum.
The Waratahs are hopeful scrumhalf Phipps will be ready to play his first game of the year, but it’s unclear if they will stick with Folau on the wing and Beale at fullback.
The Brumbies and Waratahs share a long rivalry, which started when players were forced to move to Canberra for an opportunity after being rejected by NSW and Queensland.
But the hype, anger and hatred has been toned down in recent years, with the Brumbies putting their energy into arresting a disappointing form slide rather than drawing on rage for a good performance.
“A lot of the players at the Brumbies were probably seen as never good enough to make it at the Waratahs,” McCaffrey said.
“But that’s a healthy competition. We had a good win in the last round of last year … the main thing is just worrying about ourselves and converting the positives we’ve had into an 80-minute performance.
“A lot of the boys now are born and bred in Canberra … they probably don’t care about what’s happening up north in Sydney.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND FIVE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.