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Super Rugby preview: Brumbies host Chiefs at GIO Stadium with semi-final berth at stake
Reigning Super Rugby champions Chiefs must gain revenge for a regular season reverse at the hands of the Brumbies if they are to keep their hat-trick hopes alive.
The back-to-back champions suffered a 41-23 defeat on their last visit to Canberra in April, but Friday’s trip to the GIO Stadium - a repeat of last year's final - carries the added weight of a place in the Super Rugby semi-finals.
A Super Rugby Qualifying Final will be a whole new experience for the Chiefs, who have earned an automatic semi-final slot in both of their victorious seasons.
However, Dave Rennie’s Chiefs were forced to grind out a hard-fought 11-8 victory over New Zealand conference rivals Auckland Blues to clinch fifth spot after a run of three successive defeats had left their hopes hanging in the balance.
It was much more assured progress from the Brumbies, who ran seven tries - including a Matt Toomua hat-trick - past Western Force in a 47-25 win which saw them seal fourth spot and second place in the Australian conference, some eight points behind runaway leaders Waratahs.
The Brumbies are boosted ahead of the Super Rugby Qualifying Final by the return of free-scoring winger Robbie Coleman.
Coleman's elevation to the starting XV sees Clyde Rathbone drop out of the matchday 23, with rookie prop Allan Alaalatoa's inclusion on the bench the only other change to squad that thumped the Force last time out.
With seven tries to his name in 2014, Coleman leads the Brumbies' try-scoring tally alongside his fellow-back-three member, Jesse Mogg.
It's been a big season for the Brumbies' outside backs, with Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe, Mogg and Coleman combining for a total of 22 tries.
Coleman was instrumental in guiding the Brumbies to victory over the Chiefs in their first encounter of 2014, making more tackles than any of his backline colleagues other than centre pairing of Tevita Kuridrani and Christian Lealiifano.
"It was tough watching the boys play so well last week and not being a part of it," said Coleman.
"I thought they were outstanding in pretty much everything they did. I'll be looking to build on that momentum this week. I want to be able to add to that performance.
"The last few weeks I've had some issues with my quad and as a result my speed probably hasn't been where it needs to be. That's all resolved now though and I'm looking forward to taking on the Chiefs."
The defending Super Rugby champions have made just one change to their side ahead of the trip to the Australian capital.
Dwayne Sweeney starts at full-back in place of Tom Marshall who moves to the bench as cover.
"This is do or die time for us," said Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam. We have a lot of belief in our group and now we need to convert that into our performance on the field on Saturday night."
Brumbies: 15 Mogg, 14 Speight, 13 Kuridrani, 12 Lealiifano, 11 Coleman, 10 Toomua, 9 White; 1 Sio, 2 Mann-Rea, 3 Alexander, 4 Carter, 5 Power, 6 Fardy, 7 Butler, 8 Mowen
Replacements: 16 Murphy, 17 Smith, 18 Alaalatoa, 19 Auelua, 20 McVerry, 21 Dowsett, 22 Tomane, 23 McCabe
Chiefs: 15 Sweeney, 14 Tikoirotuma, 13 Nanai-Williams, 12 Aki, 11 Lowe, 10 Cruden (capt), 9 Kerr-Barlow; 1 Mackintosh, 2 Schwalger, 3 Tameifuna, 4 Fitzgerald, 5 Retallick, 6 Messam, 7 Latimer, 8 Squire
Replacements: 16 Harris, 17 Manu, 18 Barrett, 19 Symons, 20 Koloamatangi, 21 Pulu, 22 Anscombe, 23 Marshall
Find out whether the defending champions will make the Super Rugby semi-finals as the Brumbies take on the Chiefs live on Sky Sports 1HD from 10:30am
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