The Super Rugby AU Qualifying Final is set to take place on Saturday as the Brumbies host the Western Force with the winner travelling to take on the Reds in Brisbane for all the marbles next weekend.
Brumbies vs. Western Force
Saturday, May 1 – GIO Stadium, Canberra
The Brumbies finished second in Super Rugby AU and clinched a home qualifying final in the process. They won six of their eight games – both their defeats coming at the hands of the Reds who won the regular season – and they were able to handle the Rebels with a much-changed side in Round 9. This means that some of their bigger stars have had two weeks off to prepare for this and the Brumbies will be hoping that that res doesn’t lead to sloppy play in the early going.
The Force had to expect that the Rebels would beat the Waratahs last Saturday – which they did – so their win over a Reds team not exactly lacking for star power was a great way to catapult them into this Qualifying Final. The Force has been the best story in the comp, making the FInals after just two years back in Super Rugby after they were axed in 2017. A win here would really cement their rebirth after they finished with a very impressive record of 18 points from four wins and four defeats.
The Brumbies knew that they were hosting this game before their Round 9 tilt with the Rebels two weekends ago. This gave the Canberra side the opportunity to rest some of the players as the result didn’t matter to them (and ended up not mattering to the Melbournians either). They are back to full strength this week, with the likes of skipper Nic White, Wallaby James Slipper, Irae Simone, and Pete Samu all back in to bolster their ranks. One disappointment, however, is that Tom Cusack has not been able to overcome his injury to take his place in the matchday 23.
A Qualifying FInal wouldn’t seem like the ideal time to tinker with a starting lineup, but that is exactly what the Western Force have done at the fullback position. With veteran Irishman Rob Kearney still out with an injury that has cost him much of the year, it was expected that Jack McGregor would wear 15. Instead, that jersey has been given to Jake Strachan, a young player of whom much is expected. Richard Kahui is also back in the starting XV as the Force will be missing Tevita Kuridrani who misses this one through suspension.
The Western Force is being given no chance here. The Brumbies are the favorites at 0.16 with BetXChange, while the line has been set at 15.5 points for the Force to cover. I think it will be much closer than that number, both because of the pressure of Finals rugby and also the improvement of the Force over the course of the year. I don’t think they will do enough to win the game, but they will cover that number at 0.90 with BetXChange.