The Brumbies will have to fight for Australia’s top Super Rugby honours over coming weeks without star Matt Toomua, who is facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
Toomua had surgery during the week to clean out a knee he injured in last round’s loss to the Highlanders.
He sat out Friday night’s 23-6 win over the Bulls at GIO Stadium and will also miss next Friday’s all-important clash with the Melbourne Rebels in a tussle for Australia’s only guaranteed finals berth.
While coach Stephen Larkham was reluctant to put a timeframe on Toomua’s return, it’s believed the inside centre will be out for between four and six weeks.
But with a bye after the Rebels match and the international break in June, the only other fixture he is set to miss is against Japan’s Sunwolves on May 28 in Canberra.
The injury, though, likely rules him out of the Wallabies’ first Test against England on June 11.
It’s a big blow for the ACT franchise, who are already without Joe Tomane and Henry Speight and have a fight on their hands to make the playoffs.
“But the guys who are coming in for these injured guys are really stepping up and proving that they deserve to get their shot,” Larkham said.
Robbie Coleman filled in for Toomua at No.12 on Friday, with James Dargaville playing 80 minutes on the wing.
Larkham praised both for their efforts, but admitted Toomua’s kicking was missed against the Bulls; the Brumbies failed to find touch on three occasions.
“There’s dropped balls out there as well and we probably stuffed a couple of lineouts, so there’s some issues,” he said.
“Not having Matty out there for that line kicking, it’s something that we’ll certainly address, but the attitude and energy was superb throughout the game.”
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and puts them on top of the Australian ladder, two points ahead of the Rebels who have the bye this week.
The NSW Waratahs can overtake them, however, with a big win over the Cheetahs on Saturday night.
The Brumbies have one less match than the Tahs and Rebels to improve their 6-4 win-loss record.
“Every game for us now is massive, particularly before the June series,” co-captain Stephen Moore said.
“We’ve got two games before that break and they’re both critical.
“(The Rebels) have played really well this year, they’re a very well-organised side, they’re very clear about how they want to play and are very strong physically so it’s going to be a good battle.”