Lealiifano completes his remarkable comeback
CHRISTIAN Lealiifano completes his remarkable comeback from leukemia when he returns to Super Rugby for the Brumbies' playoff against the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday.
Lealiifano, who has played 19 Tests for the Wallabies at flyhalf and inside centre, is on the bench for the Brumbies' quarter-final against the reigning Super Rugby champions at Canberra Stadium.
The 29-year-old was told in February his leukemia was in remission after chemotherapy treatment and a bone marrow transplant from his sister late last year.
"It would be a gamble if I thought he wasn't right to play,” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said.
"But the way that he's trained with the team over the last three months gives me a fair indication that he's ready to play.”
Larkham has reverted to most of the side that played against the Reds in Brisbane a fortnight ago with two enforced changes from that starting XV.
Season-ending injuries to Kyle Godwin at inside centre and Aidan Toua on the left wing mean starts for James Dargaville out wide and Andrew Smith.
Smith showed some good form in the 28-10 away loss against the Waikato Chiefs last weekend and will partner Tevita Kuridrani.
The loss against the Chiefs gave the Brumbies a 6-9 record for the regular season.
The only reason they qualified for the final was as winners of the poor Australian conference.
The Hurricanes have a star-studded line-up including the likes of Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea and managed to beat the Brumbies 56-21 in their only other meeting this year.
But that loss did not bother Larkham.
"It's a new season and everything before is irrelevant,” he said.
"We're pretty happy with the way we've prepared for this (match). It's do or die irrespective of how you've gone through the season, it all comes down to this game.
"They've been really consistent this year, I'd say they're the top New Zealand side now.”
The Brumbies must become the first Australian team to beat a New Zealand side in 26 attempts this season if they are to secure a semi-final in South Africa against the Lions or the Sharks.