Super Rugby: Stopping George Smith Is Key, Says Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe was the leading point-scorer in 2013 before a foot injury in May ruled him out for eight weeks.

Gareth Anscombe was the leading point-scorer in 2013
before a foot injury in May ruled him out for eight weeks.

by Brendan Bradford –

Nullifying George Smith is essential to beating the Brumbies in the Super Rugby final this weekend says Chiefs fullback Gareth Anscombe.

In a Brumbies side packed with talent, Smith was a standout in the upset defeat of the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend and Anscombe highlighted the 33-year-old’s expertise at the breakdown as a significant threat to the Chiefs’ attempt to win back-to-back titles.

“George Smith is a legend of the game and he’s been outstanding for the Brumbies this year,” Anscombe told Rugby News.

“He’s obviously very smart at the breakdown and he knows the ins and outs of the game there, and we’re really going to have to make sure we get onto him quickly and not let him slow our ball down.”

The battle of the breakdown will determine which side can unleash its lethal backline, but Anscombe says the Chiefs’ semi-final thriller against the Crusaders was good preparation for Smith and the Brumbies.

“We came across a couple of good ones last weekend in Matt Todd and Richie McCaw, so if we can get some good carries and good cleanouts again, hopefully we can nullify his (Smith’s) prowess there,” the 22-year-old said.

"George Smith is a legend of the game," says Anscombe.

“George Smith is a legend of the game,”
says Anscombe.

Unwanted by the Blues after the side’s dismal 2012, Anscombe moved south to Hamilton and proved a revelation at fullback for the Chiefs. The top point-scorer in 2013 before a mid-season foot injury ruled him out for eight weeks, Anscombe says the defending champions must adapt to the Brumbies’ style of play and aren’t taking the Canberra side lightly despite a heavy travel toll.

“They’re a really smart side and to win at Loftus, you’ve gotta have a bit of character,” says Anscombe, who ironically orchestrated the Bulls’ last loss at home to non-South African opposition when he scored all the points in the Blues’ 29-23 win last year in just the second Super Rugby game of his career.

“With Jake White pulling the strings, they’ll bring a different confrontation to what the Crusaders did and they kick a lot from their own half and play a lot of field position which gives us a few chances to counter them.

“I think if we put pressure on their set-piece and kickers it might open up for us at the back to have a crack, but at the same time, they’ve got threats across the park with guys like Jesse Mogg and Henry Speight, so we don’t want to get stuck in no-man’s land.”

The two sides haven’t played since Round Four last season when the Chiefs came away with a 22-29 victory in Tauranga and it will be Anscombe’s first match against the Brumbies after he missed the Blues’ Round 18 win at Canberra Stadium last year – a match that all but ended the Brumbies’ finals hopes in 2012.

The final will be Anscombe’s last game of the year before undergoing shoulder surgery which will rule him out of the ITM Cup provincial competition, but he’s determined to go out on a high note.

“There’s been a few ups and downs for me from the battle last year to this year with the Chiefs, so it’s definitely been a bit of a roller-coaster,” the former fly-half says.

“Coming down to Hamilton and switching to fullback has been awesome for me and I’m really looking forward to finishing the job on Saturday which will be my last game for about six months. It’s unfortunate, but just something I have to do so I can be right for the next Super Rugby comp and hopefully I can put my feet up for the rest of the year with that winner’s medal.”