ACT Brumbies halfback Nic White has hailed the recent form of Wallabies teammate Noah Lolesio ahead of their clash with the Chiefs on Saturday.
Lolesio, who has reportedly agreed to stay with the Brumbies for the next two years despite overtures from Japan, has returned from an injury setback to quickly settle into the leading Australian franchise’s key role alongside White.
His more experienced teammate spoke on Friday of the boost Lolesio had brought the Brumbies.
“To have Noah back for these Kiwi games has been great,” said White.
“He understands how we want to play, pulls the right strings.
“He’s managing games really well and our key learnings from trans-Tasman last year is we’re not making the same mistakes twice which is a real credit to him as a player, learning from mistakes.
“He’s got an appetite for learning and that’s the best thing as a young half. He’s a great player to play with and I can’t give him more plaudits than that – that he’s someone who has an appetite to want to learn, he studies the game to get better.
“He’s great for the group, drives high standards as well and he’s been driving this group well the last couple of weeks – hopefully a few more.”
White caught himself mid-praise however.
“I don’t want to put the mock on him because we need him to play well again tomorrow night!,” he joked.
(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
White said he expected the Chiefs to test the Brumbies on the edges, short and long.
“They don’t mind throwing it around. If we get it wrong they’re a side that can put you to the sword. They’re a two-sided attack but we see some opportunities to target them and we’ll go for it. A huge part of it knowing where their threats are and trying to nullify it.”
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar is challenging his charges to go the distance in what is a season-shaping three-match stretch against Super Rugby Pacific heavyweights.
Sitting second, the Brumbies face the fourth-placed Chiefs then take on fellow top-four title hopefuls the Crusaders and table-topping Blues.
It’s a gruelling program in anyone’s language but also a true barometer of where the Brumbies belong in championship reckoning.
Fresh off back-to-back wins over the Highlanders and Hurricanes, the Brumbies are well versed in what to expect against New Zealand opposition.
“I know for a fact that the New Zealand teams like to think that they can run over the Australian teams in the last 20 minutes and that’ll be the plan with the opposition again this week,” the coach said.
“So how our finishers come on and make a positive impact and, at the same time, bring control and discipline is incredibly important.
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“We know if we dominate that last 20-25 minutes, then we give ourselves a good chance of winning.”
With “finishers” like returning pair Allan Alaalatoa and Nick Frost plus the vastly experienced Scott Sio to call on, the Brumbies are in good hands.
But McKellar knows full well the Chiefs mark a step up in class to the Highlanders and Hurricanes.
“We’re in a good position but it’s all about fronting up on Saturday evening,” he said.
“We know this is our biggest challenge to date.
“The Chiefs at home is always a tough ask. Traditionally we play well there, we certainly didn’t last year but we’re ready to go.”
All Blacks captain Sam Cane hopes to play after sitting out last week’s win over the Queensland Reds while awaiting the birth of his first child.
But the champion flanker has been named to face the Brumbies at FMG Stadium Waikato, with wife Harriet much closer than Brisbane.
“They (babies) don’t come out on the date, normally. I’ve been told five per cent do, so all looking good to be playing this Saturday,” Cane said after training on Thursday.
“It would have to be something pretty drastic to happen.”