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Former ACT captain Stephen Hoiles says he never felt a part of the new generation Brumbies when Jake White started coaching, adding there’s no room for emotion as he prepares for a Super Rugby finals blockbuster against his old teammates.
Hoiles will take on the club he captained when he runs out for the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night just three years after standing down as Brumbies skipper and agreeing to prematurely end his Canberra contract.
The Brumbies and Waratahs are battling for a grand final berth in the biggest Australian rugby derby in 12 years.
Hoiles’ career appeared over when he battled an Achilles problem in 2011 and White cut him from the squad, a decision Hoiles still believes was the right one for the coach to make.
But the veteran has reinvented himself in Sydney and says his early Brumbies exit removed any lingering emotion going into the semi-final.
“It’s different now. I’ve never played with the current [Brumbies] side,” Hoiles said.
“I know a lot of the players and I’ve played with a lot of the players, but once Jake came in … I never felt part of that current team because I never played under Jake or [Stephen Larkham].
“It’s not a team I associate myself with, not the Brumbies team I was a part of.”
Hoiles was the Brumbies captain when the ”Real Madrid of Super Rugby” – boasting Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stephen Moore and a host of Wallabies – failed to make the Super Rugby finals.
He was also the leader through some of the club’s darkest days, standing tall for his team when close mate and Brumby Shawn Mackay died in 2009 and taking charge when coach Andy Friend was sacked in 2011.
But his playing days appeared at an end when he left the Brumbies with a year left on his contract and an Achilles problem that wouldn’t heal.
He travelled the world trying to find a remedy for the injury, making 11 flights in 11 days before finding the answer with some last-ditch surgery in Sweden.
Now he has reinvented his career where it started – with the Waratahs – and helped the team finish at the top of the Super Rugby ladder.
“Hoilesy was very good when he was down here with the culture as well,” said Brumbies coach Larkham.
“He had some injuries that we thought he wasn’t going to come back from. Credit to him, he’s got himself right and we’ve known all along he’s a very skilful player.”
Hoiles has played the Brumbies twice since joining the Waratahs this year, and he feels the current Brumbies side is a vastly different beast to the one he left almost three years ago.
“There’s always a little bit more emotion in it [playing your old club], but to be honest, having played them twice this year I’ve got that out of the system now,” he said.
“It’s just all about doing the right thing by your team. You can’t really get caught up in that [emotion] … it’s just business as usual as there’s so much on the line.”
In his five seasons with the Brumbies, Hoiles didn’t taste finals action although they came close on several occasions.
While Hoiles didn’t expect to be on the verge of playing in a Super Rugby grand final a year ago, he always felt he could get back to this level.
But if he stayed fit, he thought he might be playing overseas by now.
“Who knows where I would be? I’d probably have seen out my contract, I think I had another year to go, 2012,” Hoiles said.
“I don’t know if I’d be playing Super Rugby; I might have done my time and headed overseas like many do, but because of what’s happened I’m here and hopefully going to play in what’s going to be the biggest week of my Super Rugby career.”
SUPER RUGBY SEMI-FINAL
Saturday: NSW Waratahs v ACT BRUMBIES at Allianz Stadium, 7.40pm
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