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'You always like going up against the best': Brad Weber's one disappointment heading into clash with Super Rugby AU finalists

By Tom Vinicombe

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The Chiefs will host the Brumbies on Saturday evening with both sides still hurting from their respective Super Rugby finals.

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Both teams had the opportunity to claim titles and were left ruing key moments in their matches.

The Chiefs missed three crucial kicks at goal against the Crusaders and ultimately failed to take advantage of the periods when the Crusaders had players spending time in the sin bin.

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In the AU final, the Brumbies led from the 13th minute until the 85th minute, with the Reds scoring a post-buzzer try to steal the win.

Still, attentions have had to quickly shift from those domestic finals to the new Trans-Tasman competition and while Chiefs captain Brad Weber knows his side are in for a major challenge at Waikato Stadium on Saturday evening, there’s one Brumbies absentee that has him slightly disappointed ahead of the game.

Wallabies incumbent halfback Nic White will once again not feature for the Brumbies, having missed last weekend’s loss to the Crusaders due to a minor groin strain.

White last played in the Super Rugby AU final, only leaving the fray in the 72nd minute, and will likely make his return against the Blues in Auckland next week.

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The opportunity to go head to head with some of the best players in the business is something All Blacks halfback Weber cherishes, but he’ll instead be lining up against 23-year-old Ryan Lonergan.

“You always like going up against the best and I haven’t played Nic for a while so it would’ve been nice to go up against him again,” Weber said at Friday’s captain’s run, “but I suppose the thing about that is they’ve got two young nines coming through that look pretty sharp so we’ve got to be on our toes.

“All Aussie nines are good around the breakdown and at their running game so it’s a little bit of the unknown. At least we know sort of what Nic brings and these other two, it’s something new, so we’re going to have to be switched on so they don’t surprise us too much.”

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Perhaps Lonergan’s greatest strength is his long-range kicking game, with the youngster nailing a 55-metre penalty against the Rebels earlier this season to earn his side an after-the-siren win.

Lonergan will be backed up by 25-year-old Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.

In 2015, the last time that Weber and White actually went toe to toe, it was the Chiefs who nabbed a last-second win after first five Aaron Cruden landed an 81st minute penalty goal.

White left the Brumbies following the 2015 World Cup and linked up with Montpellier in France before spending three years with the Exeter Chiefs.

He returned to the Brumbies in the latter stages of the 2020 season – after the international Super Rugby competition had already been called to a halt due to the global pandemic.

While the Brumbies have had the upper hand over the Chiefs in their previous two encounters, winning 26-14 in Hamilton last year and recording a sizeable 54-17 win in 2019, Weber was absent for both matches while White was overseas.

While a loss on Saturday wouldn’t end the Chiefs’ hopes of making the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final, it would likely make things very difficult for Weber’s men.

Anything other than a win won’t cut it for the Brumbies, however, who came close to snatching a draw against the Crusaders in Christchurch but Noah Lolesio’s final conversion attempt of the game narrowly missed the uprights, consigning the Australians to a 31-29 loss against the Aotearoa champions.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:05pm NZT.

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:

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'You always like going up against the best': Brad Weber's one disappointment heading into clash with Super Rugby AU finalists

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