John Robbie on Super 15
Two years ago who would have bet on the Brumbies playing the Cheetahs in the high-low Super 15 playoff in 2013?
The Cheetahs had been a bit of a joke for years in this competition and the Brumbies were living on past glories.
Then Jake White took over in Canberra and many, including me, thought the conservative coach and the expansive Brumbies was a match made in rugby hell. How wrong we were.
Jake took what was right with the Brumbie set-up, converted player power into player responsibility and the rest is history.
He has done with the Brumbies exactly what he did with his Springbok sides in terms of organisation, fitness, motivation and the ability to play the odds.
It is no fluke that they were the only provincial side to beat the British and Irish Lions on the recent tour. They were up for it, had done their homework and delivered on the field.
They will have looked at the stats before today and seen that Brüssow, Labuschagne and van der Walt each are in the top six tacklers in the competition and they will kick for position, pressurise and run from turnovers.
This will result in tries or at least penalties. Jesse Mogg provides the spark in the backline and with Stephen Larkham as assistant coach. Just watch the way set piece backline moves are constructed.
What looks simple often involves an array of options and, with a shallow fast attack that puts massive pressure on decision making in defence.
This is a key area as the Cheetahs miss too many tackles in the middle left channel and Jake will have seen that. Watch out for phases that look aimless but are in fact stanzas that build and contrive situations to attack in that area. Today will be like a chess game.
The Cheetahs have to travel but do so on the back of a rest week. In the past, match inactivity could take the edge off a side but today it is seen as manna from heaven. They have also revised the whole concept of fitness in Super 15 this year with slow, heavy resistance training replaced by explosive speed work.
Thus fatigue is said to be at a minimum, but, this could just be the thrill from their rare success. The one man who could make a real difference is, of course, Willie le Roux. I prefer him at full back but, such is his ability that he plays as an extra 15 from the wing anyway.
Hennie Daniller is there for the Nic White bombs. Le Roux can be a liability, but in a game like this where homework has been done and probabilities factored into tactics, his two or three key decisions could be decisive, either way.
Also, when Naka Drotske brings Sarel Pretorius on, it could be a defining moment. Quite what happened to him in Sydney with the Waratahs is a mystery, as he started so well but ended up out of the squad.
There is no better broken play running nine in Super 15 and he is the sort of player you don't like playing against in a final - and that is what this is. It is a final as are all the games from now on. Pretorius will want to show Australia what they missed.
The Super 15 is a hell of a competition. It starts off grabbing your attention as the teams reveal themselves, but the middle is like those dead middle overs in an ODI. Well, we are now into the final overs, so to speak, and suddenly it is all on again.
I go for a Brumbies win because in his DNA Jake is a winner, and anyway, you never bet against the home side at this stage do you? However the Cheetahs do have something about them this season. They remind me of the Reds two years ago and who will ever forget that magic.
There is simply too much rugby played these days. It hammers the players and breeds familiarity that dulls the excitement of many spectators. However, when it gets to the crunch, rugby is as gripping and compulsive as ever.
It is like chess, but full contact, and each piece on the board has a mind of its own. Who will make the crucial move today? I can't wait.
John Robbie is the presenter of the John Robbie Show on Talk Radio 702.
This column appeared in the Saturday Star.