Brumbies halfback Joe Powell has jumped ship to the Melbourne Rebels, who have announced a mass exodus of nine players.
The Brumbies are pledging to flex their collective muscle in pursuit of the title of undisputed kings of Australian provincial rugby union.
Australia’s conference champions in three of the past four Super Rugby campaigns, the Brumbies are intent on solidifying their status with 2020 glory in the abridged version of the competition.
That means keeping Brad Thorn’s emerging Queensland Reds at bay in Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU final in Canberra.
To do so, Brumbies captain and Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa has identified the set piece as the area where the hosts plan to mark their territory.
“For us, physicality is going to be king,” Alaalatoa said on Friday.
“In terms of a forwards perspective, we need to make sure that we’re on, especially in and around our set piece.
“They’ve been a threat all year around set piece and they have a quality back row who is putting a lot of pressure on the breakdown.
“So I think for us forwards we need to make sure we deliver on physicality and start really well.”
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Reds dominated at scrum time in a 26-7 mauling of the Brumbies three weeks ago in Brisbane.
But Thorn’s men haven’t tamed the Brumbies in the national capital in six years.
Alaalatoa is hoping the presence of 6000 fans, hardly capacity at GIO Stadium but the biggest COVID-19 crowd of the season, will swing the game the Brumbies’ way.
“It’s going to be awesome. The feeling when you ran out and there was 1500, it was like the stadium was full and it got better with 3000,” the skipper said.
“So with 6000, from a player’s view, you can tell the atmosphere is going to be unreal.
“It’s 1-1 at the moment in the Super Rugby AU comp, so you could almost call it the decider.
“They are obviously a team that’s in form at the moment. They have a lot of momentum coming into the game, but for us, we’re fresh and we are really keen to rip in.”
Although the real-deal Super Rugby crown isn’t up for grabs, the Reds are hoping to crack their first title since 2011, as well as Australian bragging rights.
The Brumbies haven’t won a championship since 2004.
Alaalatoa’s front-row partner Scott Sio is the sole forward survivor from the Brumbies’ 27-22 near miss against the Chiefs in the 2013 Super Rugby title decider in New Zealand.
“Scotty got up a few weeks ago and spoke about how long he’s been involved in the club and just fell short in the grand final,” Alaalatoa said.
“For him, who is one of our veterans, it truly means a lot for him to be part of this grand final and getting another chance of winning something special with the group.”
Stats that matter
• Each of the last ten Super Rugby games between the Brumbies and Reds have been won by the home team
• The only previous post-season meeting between the Brumbies and Reds came in the 2001 Super Rugby semi-finals when the Brumbies won 30-6 before claiming the title
• The Brumbies have scored 24 tries on possession begun with a lineout win in Super Rugby AU, 11 more than any other team
• The Reds have gained more metres (476), made more clean breaks (11), beaten more defenders (25), and made more offloads (eight) per game than any other Super Rugby AU team