The Brumbies will be keen to return to the victory trail when they take on a confident Bulls side in Canberra on Friday.
After an impressive start to the tournament, in which they were the early pacesetters after winning their first three matches, the Brumbies’ challenge has stuttered in recent weeks and they know that nothing except a victory will appease their supporters.
They head into this clash two points adrift of the Rebels, who are at the top of the standings in the Australian Conference and know that victory is imperative if they want to remain amongst the contenders for the title.
The late withdrawal through injury of Matt Toomua was a setback for the two-time champions but that has been offset by the return of inspirational hooker and co-captain Stephen Moore.
Toomua’s absence puts extra pressure on Christian Lealiifano who, apart from his goalkicking, will be also expected to lead the Brumbies’ charge on attack.
Lealiifano highlighted the importance of converting their attacking chances this week.
“We’re creating a lot of opportunities, it’s just a matter of finishing them off,” he said.
“I feel like we’re working into our shape rather than looking to create. That’s a big onus on the playmakers… and the backs have to light up with opportunities on the edge.”
The Bulls have gone quietly about their business this season but showed in their one-sided victory over the Western Force in Perth last weekend that they are a dangerous outfit.
Under new head coach Nollis Marais the men from Pretoria have diverted from their traditional 10-man style of play and are now employing an expansive game-plan.
While they are still a work in progress, they have combined their new style with their traditional strengths and are reaping the rewards.
The Bulls are currently seventh for tries scored (29) – which is one more than the Brumbies – and are second highest in terms of tackle success (87.1 percent) as well as at the lineouts (92.9 percent).
The last five encounters between these sides have been closely fought affairs despite a high number of total points scored. Only once since a 50-32 Bulls triumph in 2010 has a game between these teams been decided by seven or more points.
2015: Brumbies won 22-16 in Canberra
2014: Bulls won 44-23 in Pretoria
2013: Brumbies won 26-23 in Pretoria (semi-final)
2013: Brumbies won 23-20 in Canberra
2012: Brumbies won 36-34 in Pretoria
2010: Bulls won 50-32 in Pretoria
2009: Brumbies won 32-31 in Canberra
2008: Bulls won 28-17 in Pretoria
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (cc), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Lausii Taliauli
Bulls: 15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Dan Kriel
Date: Friday, May 6
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Referees: Will Houston, Ed Martin
TMO: Peter Marshall