Brumbies captain Ben Mowen has stoked the fire ahead of Saturday night’s sudden-death showdown with the NSW Waratahs and declared his side deserving of the Super Rugby title.
The Waratahs enter the blockbuster derby in Sydney as favourites after running away with the minor premiership with a franchise-record seven consecutive wins.
Mowen, though, believes the Brumbies should be rewarded with a championship after three years of hard work since the side’s catastrophic 2011 campaign.
The Brumbies notched just four wins for a franchise-low 13th-place finish in 2011.
But the the arrival of Mowen from the Waratahs and World Cup-winning Springboks coach Jake White – as well as the rapid development of several talented players – lifted them to seventh, second and fourth in the past three seasons.
“I honestly believe the group deserves a championship for the work that’s been done,” Mowen said on Friday.
“Not only the last 12 months but over the last three and a bit years.
“But thinking you deserve one and actually getting one are two different things.
“That’s the message we’ve been pushing, is we’ve got to make things happen.
“For me personally, I’m very motivated to make sure that this group gets what they deserve.”
Saturday’s clash could be Mowen’s last for the Brumbies, with the back-rower joining French club Montpellier.
Despite believing the Brumbies deserve a title, the former Wallabies captain rates the task of toppling the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium an even bigger challenge than beating the Bulls in Pretoria at the corresponding stage of last year’s competition.
“That was obviously a great milestone for the team, to go over there and achieve that, but I think the way that the Waratahs have played this year, they have really stamped themselves on the competition,” Mowen said.
But the experience of going all the way to last year’s final has stood the Brumbies in good stead, according to Mowen.
“We probably burned ourselves out a little bit through the training week, with being over-excited for game day, where this year we’re definitely a lot more measured,” Mowen said.
While director of rugby Laurie Fisher believes the Brumbies are playing better than at any other stage of the season, Mowen feels they are still to peak.
“I actually think that we’re getting better week to week,” Mowen said.
“I’d be a little concerned if we were playing our best footy.
“We’re finding heaps of areas to improve and I think statistically you can see that in our game the last fortnight.
“We’ve scored 11 tries in the last two weeks, so our attack feels really confident and our defence is working hard.
“Having that extra game (the qualifying final) has probably played a lot of guys into form.”