Melbourne have blown the Super Rugby AU competition wide open after handing the Brumbies their first defeat of the season in a thumping 30-12 victory.
Forget the Brumbies v Crusaders classics, Test prop Scott Sio says his Super Rugby side have found a new Trans-Tasman grudge rival: the Chiefs.
They didn’t come much bigger than the Crusaders-Brumbies clashes a little over a decade ago, with the two sides meeting in title deciders in five years.
But new rivalries have emerged since.
The Crusaders denied the Waratahs a maiden title twice before the NSW side exacted a cold dish of revenge in last year’s final.
The Brumbies on the other hand were overrun by 2012 champions the Chiefs in the 2013 final.
They didn’t have to wait as long to exact revenge, however, getting the better of the Chiefs in last year’s ANZAC Day clash, before finishing any hopes of a Chiefs three-peat by knocking them out in a quarter-final.
Sio believes the recent big game history between the two sides will add extra spice to Friday night’s clash in New Plymouth.
“Back in the day it use to be the Brumbies and Crusaders,” Sio said.
“Now it seems to be the Brumbies-Chiefs which is the big Australian-New Zealand fixture.”
It’s a match Sio always looks forward to on a personal level.
That’s because he’ll likely be packing down opposite giant chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna – possibly Super Rugby’s biggest unit – who is tipped to return from injury.
At 182cm and 140kg, Tameifuna isn’t just a wrecking ball in attack, but poses significant challenges at the scrum.
“I’ve been playing against him since schoolboys rugby in 2009, we’ve had a few good battles over the years,” Sio said.
“It presents its own challenge with his weight, but that’s the beauty of rugby, each week you get to go against guys with different shape and size.”
With the Chiefs boasting Sonny Bill Williams back in their ranks and expected to bring back All Blacks forwards Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick from an extended rest, Brumbies forwards coach Dan McKellar says the physicality will be a step up from the Queensland Reds – who the Brumbies trounced 47-3 in Canberra on Friday.
“The reality is the Reds had seven key players out,” McKellar said.
“But with class players coming back for the Chiefs – including Aaron Cruden – they’re going to be a much tougher proposition.”