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Brumbies make quarter-final changes

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Brumbies ring the changes for quarter-final versus Sharks

Brumbies are banking on home advantage in Canberra proving decisive when they take on the South African Sharks at GIO Stadium on Saturday in the Super Rugby quarter-finals. 

The sole Australian knock-out stage qualifier have won six games in succession and not lost a home match since February. Head coach Dan McKellar has now made four changes to the team that defeated the Reds to retain the Rod Macqueen Cup. 

Henry Speight has been passed fit to reclaim the right wing spot, and Toni Pulu returns to the left wing forming a potent back three alongside Tom Banks.

The other two changes are in the back row where Tom Cusack and Pete Samu return to the starting XV alongside Rob Valetini. Loose forwards Lachlan McCaffrey and Jahrome Brown will provide power and impact from the replacements bench.

The nucleus of the pack that has been the benchmark for the Super Rugby competition in 2019 is retained with the all-international front row of Scott Sio and Allan Alaalatoa packing down with Brumbies leading try-scorer, Folau Fainga’a, the hooker having claimed 11 tries this season.

Christian Leali’ifano will win his 149th Super Rugby cap, leading the team for the 47th time as captain to equal the mark set by George Gregan. The gifted playmaker is also closing in on 950 Super Rugby points.

McKellar has opted for six forwards on the bench, adding Darcy Swain into the finishers with the front row substitutes being Connal McInerney, James Slipper and Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, the latter running out for his 49th Super Rugby appearance.

Matt Lucas makes a return to the matchday 23 as one of two back replacements, together with utility Tom Wright who crossed for his third try of the season in the win over the Reds.

Should the Brumbies be successful in their quarter-final there are two potential semi-final fixtures. If the Jaguares defeat the Chiefs in Buenos Aires, the Brumbies will travel to Argentina, but if the Chiefs are successful the New Zealanders will be the opposition at GIO Stadium.

BRUMBIES (v Sharks, Saturday): T Banks; H Speight, T Kuridrani, I Simone, T Pulu; C Leali’ifano (capt), J Powell; S Sio, F Fainga’a, A Alaalatoa, R Arnold, S Carter, R Valetini, T Cusack, P Samu. Reps: C McInerney, J Slipper, L Leuluaialii-Makin, D Swain, L McCaffrey, J Brown, M Lucas, T Wright. 

WATCH: Brumbies boss Dan McKellar previews their quarter-final showdown with the Sharks

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Brumbies ring the changes for quarter-final versus Sharks