Home ground advantage the Brumbies' greatest weapon

Two weeks at home could be the greatest weapon the Brumbies possess when they host the Highlanders on Friday night.

Since the start of Super Rugby, the home sides have dominated at finals time, with 56 matches going the hosts way and just 15 to the visitors.

The Highlanders, though, were the first team to win the grand final as the away side since the Bulls took the title in 2007.

The tally has been narrowed considerably in recent years, with last year’s final series swinging the way of the visitors for the first time since 1999.

A win for the Brumbies on Friday night would be their fifth home victory in a row, though just their second in five matches against New Zealand visitors.

Despite finishing below the Highlanders on competition points, the Brumbies’ conference-winning finish earned them a home final and a second straight week in Canberra.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said the home ground advantage would be a critical one for his side, especially with a short turnaround from last weekend’s match against the Force.

“It’s massive, particularly when we get a good crowd out here,” he said.

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“The familiarity of captain’s run of training at home the whole week is certainly a bonus.

“Just thinking back to the Auckland game, we had 10 hours of travel the day before the game which made it really difficult.

“So, we don’t have to do that. And then, I guess the home crowd who generally lift us and we’re expecting a very good crowd tomorrow night.

The Highlanders come to Canberra off a gruelling travel schedule, which involved trips to Port Elizabeth and Argentina in two of the last three weeks of the season, a toll that Larkham said would definitely play a part.

“I think that certainly plays a part in it,” he said.

“There’s an element of fatigue that you might fool yourself with at the start of the game, thinking, ‘Oh, I can push through this,’ but by the end of the game there’s certainly that element.”

While the home ground advantage could be pivotal, a more tangible boost would be the return of flanker David Pocock.

:”It’s massive to have one of the best players in the world available for selection is a huge boost for the boys and he’s been in really good form,” Larkham said.

“We saw it last year in the World Cup but through this Super Rugby season he’s been outstanding for this team and for the morale of this team.”

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