David Polkinghorne July 18, 2012
The revelation of a relatively easy path to the Super Rugby final has made the ACT Brumbies' failure to make the play-offs even more ''hurtful'' for coach Jake White.
White lamented the lost opportunity immediately after the Brumbies' heartbreaking 30-16 loss to the Auckland Blues last Saturday and nothing has changed despite having a few days to let the dust settle.
If anything, knowing the path the Brumbies could have had through the play-offs has increased the pain.
White felt the Queensland Reds had a relatively easy ride through the finals, hosting the Durban Sharks this weekend for a chance to play the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton next weekend.
Victory across the ditch would see them in a second consecutive Super Rugby final.
It's a path that could so easily have been the Brumbies'.
''If it pans out the way we think it could pan out … then it's going to be even more hurtful because it'll mean that we've missed out not only on third but missed out on that road that we thought we could be part of,'' White said.
''It could quite likely be the Reds win a game at Suncorp again and win the tournament at Suncorp again, which in all likelihood albeit for half a point would've been in Canberra.''
But White was still looking at the ''glass half full''.
He felt there were plenty of positives his inexperienced side could take out of the 2012 season and was confident they would learn from it.
The players are on a 10-day break before they'll begin their season reviews.
White said a possible trip to South Africa during the pre-season had been canned due to player unavailability, with post-season surgeries and Wallabies duties ruling out a majority of the squad.
Instead, White will concentrate on finalising his squad for next year.
He's still waiting for Western Force openside flanker David Pocock to decide whether he'll join the Brumbies next season.
Until then White won't know who else will fill the final few squad and extended-player spots up for grabs.
''I'm just waiting on a couple of chaps I've approached to see if they'll come and join us, if they do then I'll be able to finalise the rest of the squad,'' he said.
''The balance of the squad is very important to me … what I'm doing is waiting on a couple of guys, and Pocock being one of them, and then I know what positions I need to put around him and players I have in the system already.
''If I don't get him then we have to look at someone else and that has a domino effect over the three or four positions we've still got available.''
But White did rule out signing Ireland flyhalf Ronan O'Gara, who had been linked with the Brumbies.