The Brumbies are the only side left flying the Australian flag In Super Rugby and coach Dan McKellar says the team will be playing for national pride in the quarterfinals.
On a freezing Saturday night in Canberra, the Brumbies rallied from 0-7 down to beat the Queensland Reds 40-27 for their sixth straight win.
It was a record-setting victory, equalling their longest win streak ahead of the home quarterfinal against South Africa’s Coastal Sharks next Saturday.
Australia’s three other teams – the Reds, Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels – all lost, summing up their disappointing seasons in a World Cup year.
Dane Haylett-Petty’s Rebels finished 11th on the 15-team ladder, the Michael Hooper-led Waratahs came 12th and the Reds, who said goodbye to departing skipper Samu Kerevi, were second last, ahead of only Japan’s Sunwolves.
New Zealand have four teams in the last eight and South Africa two. Argentina’s Jaguares also made the grade after topping the South Africa conference.
“I do think there’s a sense that we’re representing the country,” McKellar told reporters of being the last Australian team standing.
“You get a bit sick of rugby getting beaten up in Australia for one reason or another. I’d love for us to keep working hard and put some really positive stories together for our own players and group to remember.
“But also for rugby to get some positivity over the next few weeks,” he added. “I’m confident we can do that.”
Australian rugby has been through the wringer recently, with Israel Folau’s sacking for homophobic comments overshadowing much of the season, which followed a wretched year for the Wallabies in 2018.
A big disappointment for Australian fans was the late-season capitulation that saw the Rebels throw away the chance of making their playoffs debut.
They leaked 125 points in their last two outings, losing 8-59 at home to the Chiefs on Friday after their 0-66 thrashing by the Crusaders the week before.
Their Wallabies flyhalf Reece Hodge said he feared the scale of the losses may cost some players a place in the Australia squad for the World Cup in Japan.
“I’m filthy about it and if it costs me my spot then I have to live with that,” Hodge, who has won 33 caps, told reporters.
“We come here to win for the Rebels and if selections happen down the track then that’s the coach’s prerogative.”
While a handful of Rebels players, including Will Genia, Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete and lock Adam Coleman, can feel confident of still being in Wallabies contention, others face an anxious wait.
They include Jack Maddocks, Billy Meakes, Isi Naisairani, and Quade Cooper.