A return to Canberra has reignited the Brumbies’ Super Rugby season, scoring a 24-17 victory over the Sharks on Saturday night.
Entering the match at GIO Stadium after two straight defeats to Australian Conference rivals, all the pressure was on Dan McKellar’s team to deliver.
While it wasn’t always pretty, the Brumbies did enough to account for their South African opponents and square their season ledger at 2-2 heading into a bye.
Curwin Bosch crossed for the Sharks late in the contest to ensure it was two tries each.
The Brumbies win was made even more impressive considering Lachlan McCaffrey and Allan Alaalatoa spent time in the sin bin.
McKellar made the brave call to swing the axe four games into his coaching tenure, but the six changes worked.
Switching captain Christian Lealiifano to inside centre and putting Wharenui Hawera at No.10 worked wonders as they combined together perfectly.
Hawera had a brilliant night with the boot, slotting all of his penalty kicks to repay the faith shown from McKellar in an inspired performance.
The Brumbies boss said three away games – including a first round trip to Japan – to start the season had taken a massive toll on the group.
But four of their next five games are in Canberra, creating a chance for the Brumbies to apply pressure to conference-leading Melbourne Rebels.
“We’ve had a hard four or five weeks on the road and I’ve spoken about that a lot,” McKellar said.
“There was a bit of an overreaction with how we performed the first couple of weeks and I think people underestimate the travel that goes into this competition.”
The Brumbies should have been further in front than 10-3 at half-time, failing to capitalise on some golden opportunities in attack.
Henry Speight crashed over for an early second half try, but the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit crossed for a converted try not long after to keep the visitors in the hunt.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez said it was disappointing his side failed to make the most of the Brumbies having 14 players on the field for a quarter of the match.
“I think we battled to get into the game, especially in the first half, we just didn’t start well and didn’t make the most of our chances,” he said.
“The Brumbies had lost a couple in a row and we knew they would bring a big backlash. They were desperate to win tonight and played really well.”