All-Australian final still big possibility
AUSTRALIA'S World Cup campaign could receive a huge boost if the Waratahs and Brumbies can advance to next week's Super Rugby grand final.
While many experts expect the Tahs to cross the ditch to defend their title against the powerful Hurricanes, the mouth-watering prospect of an all-Australian final in Sydney is not totally out of the question.
New South Wales will start warm favourites to earn a place in the season decider at the expense of the Highlanders in their clash at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night, despite playmaker Kurtley Beale being ruled out after failing to recover from a quad injury.
But the Brumbies, who have lost explosive winger Henry Speight to a five-week dangerous throw suspension, will have to pull off a major upset in Wellington against the ladder-leading Hurricanes to set up an historic all-Australian clash.
The scales have been levelled a little though, with confirmation the Hurricanes will be without All Black winger Corey Jane (hamstring), whose spot has gone to Nehe Milner-Skudder
Bookmaker Sportsbet told APN while the Tahs had been heavily backed to win their semi, punters did not have the same faith in the Brumbies. The agency has posted odds of $4.73 for an all-Aussie showdown.
Asked about the prospects of history being made, Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper quipped: "You have a joke about it, but it would be an amazing final".
The Hurricanes have dropped just two games all season and have been by far the most potent attacking side in the competition.
But the Brumbies, dominant in their 39-19 quarter-final win against the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend - their third-straight away win - are still chasing redemption after losing the 2013 title to the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Brumbies skipper Stephen Moore said he believed the experience gained from that loss, plus two finals games last year and more success on the road this year, has his side much better equipped to handle such a high-pressure game in Wellington.
"There's no doubt that type of thing helps. There are guys in our team now who have played in half-a-dozen finals matches, and the pressure associated with that, you certainly do get accustomed to that type of pressure and that environment," Moore said.
"It's a positive for us, and we have to make sure again this weekend when that pressure comes on that we stand up."
The platform for victory may be set in the forwards, but the battle between Hurricanes danger man Ardie Savea and Brumbies winger Joe Tomane, in scintillating form with a hat-trick against the Stormers, could have an influence on the outcome.