Crusaders scrumhalf Andy Ellis was on the verge of uprooting his life to join the ACT Brumbies this year, but All Blacks No.9 put loyalty first to turn down a move to Canberra.
Ellis will arrive in the capital on Friday with his Crusaders teammates as they aim to make it seven wins in a row this year and extend their seven-year streak against the Brumbies.
But had things been different, Ellis could have been lining up against the Crusaders after the Brumbies went on a worldwide search for a scrumhalf.
It’s understood Ellis was close to signing with the Brumbies but decided it would be too hard to leave his Crusaders mates and history behind.
That meant the Brumbies signed Argentinian livewire Tomas Cubelli to fill the role for two years and now the pair will go head-to-head on Sunday.
“I think Andy just found that it would be hard to play against the Crusaders [if he signed with the Brumbies],” said ACT coach Stephen Larkham.
“He’s a fairly loyal character and looking at his understanding of the game and genuine team spirit would have made him a good fit if he wanted to come here.
“But we managed to get Tomas and he’s been outstanding, we wouldn’t wish for any other result there.”
The Brumbies are expected to make minimal team changes, with Larkham tinkering with the bench but sticking with the starting XV that beat the NSW Waratahs last weekend.
The Brumbies have won five of their seven games, while the Crusaders lost their opening-round match and are unbeaten since.
The Brumbies haven’t beaten the Crusaders since 2009, including a 37-24 defeat at Canberra Stadium last year.
The match is a part of a crucial block of five games for the Brumbies as they look to set up their title aspirations.
Cubelli has started in every match this season and has cemented his place as the Brumbies’ first-choice No.9.
“Tomas is still looking for improvement every week, he’s fitting into the team and the boys are enjoying having him around,” Larkham said.
“He’s got a lovely character about him and the biggest thing for him is being diligent about getting better, and every week we’ve seen improvement from him.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND NINE
Sunday: ACT Brumbies v Canterbury Crusaders at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm