Brumbies ready to bring A-game, says Tomane
The ACT Brumbies have little to fear from the prospect of another arduous journey to the Super Rugby final, having racked up thousands of miles reaching the title decider a year ago, according to winger Joe Tomane.
The Brumbies start the post-season with a replay of last year's final against the reigning champion Chiefs at their home Canberra Stadium in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.
If successful, the most likely scenario is two more away matches to clinch a third title in the southern hemisphere competition, a feat not achieved since the Crusaders beat Queensland and the Highlanders on the road to win the 1999 crown.
The Brumbies, if they beat the Chiefs and Crusaders, could host a home final if the Highlanders defeat the Sharks and NSW Waratahs in successive weeks.
The Brumbies almost matched that feat last year following a 23,000-kilometre odyssey to and from South Africa, before giving up a 10-point lead in the last 15 minutes of the final against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
"I think we've got a better run this year than last year," Wallabies wideman Tomane told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday.
"Last year, we had the first home final and we had to go to South Africa and back. If things go our way we won't have to do as much travelling, so it does give us a bit of confidence.
"But we're really just trying to focus on what we can control.
"We're a team that believes we can turn up anywhere, any time. It doesn't matter whether we play in South Africa or on the moon, we're always going to turn up."
The idea of avenging last year's loss in the final has been played up in the Australian media in the leadup to Saturday's clash, as it was ahead of the teams' regular season match in April, a crushing 41-23 home win for the Brumbies.
The Brumbies can claim the edge in momentum after trouncing playoff hopefuls Western Force last week to finish the regular season fourth in the table, while the fifth-placed Chiefs snuck in to the top six with a narrow win over the Blues.
The Chiefs are likely to offer a stiffer challenge this time, however, with All Blacks flyhalf Aaron Cruden back in form and directing traffic after missing the April game.
"I guess we don't look too far in the past," said 24-year-old Tomane, capped nine times for the Wallabies.
"We'll definitely use what happened as motivation but I don't really buy into the idea (of revenge).
"Every time you play the Chiefs you've always got to expect a tough game. We've prepared for it, I think we're ready."
After topping the Australian conference last year under former World Cup-winning coach Jake White, the Brumbies have been put in the shade by the New South Wales Waratahs and have had to negotiate a number of hurdles just to make the playoffs.
White walked out on his contract in the off-season to head back to South Africa, leaving former Wallabies flyhalf Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher to share coaching duties.
Veteran hooker Stephen Moore was struck down by a season-ending knee injury a minute into his debut as Wallabies captain against France last month, while Tomane was also sidelined with a broken cheekbone that kept him out of the June internationals.
A number of Brumbies are leaving for overseas clubs at the end of the season, including captain Ben Mowen and Fisher, who will take up a coaching role at Gloucester.
Tomane will not be one of them, having re-signed last month for another two years with the hope of paying back Larkham, who will be full-time head coach next year.
Larkham convinced Tomane to ditch rugby league after his career in Australia's NRL stalled in 2011, luring him from the beach life of the Gold Coast to the biting winters of Australia's remote inland capital.
Tomane repaid the faith in a stunning debut season in Super Rugby, earning a Wallabies debut against Scotland in the process.
"He threw me a lifeline," Tomane said. "He showed a lot of faith and a lot of confidence in me which made my decision easier to come back.
"He's reaping the rewards now. I've sort of resurrected my career. I was in a bit of a low point in league and he really helped me and moulded me into the player I am now. I owe him a lot... Hopefully, I can keep paying him back."