The Brumbies say departing coach Dan McKellar deserves to go out a winner as they begin preparations for their sudden-death Super Rugby Pacific finals clash with the Hurricanes.
The Brumbies host the men from Wellington in week one of the playoffs on Saturday night, determined to extend McKellar’s tenure for as long as possible.
McKellar is moving to a full-time role with the Wallabies with former coach Stephen Larkham returning to Canberra next season.
Young lock Tom Hooper, who is hopeful of returning from injury against the Hurricanes, said the team wanted to show McKellar their appreciation.
“All the boys owe a lot to Dan and we’re going to show our appreciation to him by really putting in over the next three weeks,” Hooper said of McKellar, who has been coach since 2018.
“He’s a great coach and he deserves nothing but that.”
Hooper said the team had been disappointed with their recent run of three straight losses after a stellar start to the season.
Their final round defeat by lowly Moana Pasifika, which followed a two-point loss to the ladder-leading Blues while they also fell to the Crusaders.
“Moana definitely showed up, playing their last game of the season and playing for their skipper (Sekope Kepu) in his 150th.
“We’ve got to be better next week and we will be.”
Hooper, who on Monday announced a two year contract extension, said they were looking to start fresh in the finals.
They are hopeful of getting powerhouse flanker Rob Valetini back in the line-up after missing three weeks with a hamstring injury.
“We are three straight losses but finals footy is completely different,” the 21-year-old said.
“We will probably have to face New Zealand teams from now on and to take on the Hurricanes is the first challenge and one we’re up for.”