While World Cup-winning coach Jake White walked away from his four-year contract at the halfway point after turning the team around, there could be a silver lining to his defection to the Sharks.
On the way to becoming Super Rugby runners-up to the Chiefs in 2013, the Brumbies were criticised for their reliance on a conservative, South African style that relied heavily on kicking.
Now they have Wallabies flyhalf great Stephen Larkham, a man with strong attacking instincts, as their new head coach.
While he and director of rugby Laurie Fisher will stay true to the basics of the plan that lifted the Brumbies out of the doldrums, they’re looking to add a more expansive twist.
The squad now boasts 13 Wallabies, well up on the three they had two years ago, earning backline stars Nic White, Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani and Jesse Mogg more leeway in attack.
“Over the last couple of years when we’ve gone out to play, teams know exactly what we’re doing because it didn’t really change week to week,” Larkham said.
“The Brumbies traditionally have been seen as an attacking side and we certainly want to take our opportunities.
“If there is space in our own half, yeah the boys are allowed to chance their arm.”
Captain Ben Mowen concurs, accepting teams will have closely studied the formula behind their rise.
“Any time you make a final in Super Rugby you become a team that gets hunted,” he said.
Having made the shock announcement that he’ll be giving up the captaincy of both the Wallabies and the Brumbies to play rugby in France at the end of the year, Mowen’s desperate to leave on a high in 2014.
“To try and win a championship with the Brumbies – I’ve never been more motivated,” he said.
That goal will be all the more difficult with the number of players that have departed in the off-season, including George Smith (Japan), Peter Kimlin (France), Dan Palmer (France), Colby Fainga’a (Rebels), Zack Holmes (Force) and Ian Prior (Force).
However they’ll be boosted by the return of star Wallabies flanker David Pocock from last year’s early season-ending knee injury.
While veteran flanker Smith was brilliant while on loan from Japan in his absence, there’s no prizes for guessing who Larkham prefers in his starting line-up.
“George was tremendous, but there were certain elements to his game that we just couldn’t fix, that people didn’t even notice were wrong,” Larkham said.
“Poey’s got a more rounded game and understands attack, defence and the breakdown as well as anyone.”