The Brumbies have resisted the urge to start Matt Toomua in Saturday’s clash with the Crusaders, even though a top-two Super Rugby finish is on the line.
Coach Stephen Larkham has instead decided to ease the Wallabies playmaker back via the bench after he spent weeks on the sideline recovering from two separate ankle injuries.
Christian Lealiifano will remain at five-eighth and Robbie Coleman at No.12 in a starting line-up unchanged from last Friday’s win over the Western Force.
Larkham said he’d been considering Toomua to start but didn’t want to take the risk given his “chequered run” with injuries and has named him in the reserves.
He’s only managed to play 24 minutes over the past seven matches – against the Lions in Johannesburg – before succumbing to a syndesmosis strain.
“We were certainly considering Matty to start and see how long he could push for in the game,” Larkham said.
“He had a bit of awareness on Tuesday so that sort of made the decision.
“If he was fine on Tuesday, it would’ve been a difficult decision because Robbie has been playing really well.”
Larkham wants Toomua to play at least half an hour at either No.10 or 12.
“He’ll be the first guy on the field,” he added.
“We want to try and get him some game time before we get to the finals.”
Lealiifano said he was looking forward to having his playmaking partner back in the side.
“It’ll add a lot of experience on the bench and bring in some impact as well with his knowledge and game sense,” he said.
Coleman had justified his place in the starting side with two of his best games in the last couple of weeks, according to Larkham.
He’ll be there alongside wingers Henry Speight and Joe Tomane, who completed their first full training session of the week on Thursday.
Speight rolled his ankle last start, while Tomane had been rested after a long season.
“It’s massive to have three Wallabies there,” said Larkham of Toomua, Speight and Tomane.
A bonus-point win to the Brumbies would give them the best possible chance of a top-two finish and coveted home semi-final.
But their fate will depend on the outcome of the NSW Waratahs’ clash with the Queensland Reds – later on Saturday – with both sides equal on competition points at the top of the Australian conference.
“We really want to make our run in the finals as easy as possible and the best way to do that is win this weekend,” Larkham said.
“There’s plenty of permutations.
“The most likely for us is either going to South Africa or Dunedin, but then we have the possibility of going to Hamilton, going to Sydney or playing at home.
“So we’ve run all of those scenarios as a staffing group, just to be ready for next week.”
Larkham labelled the Crusaders a “dangerous” outfit even though they’ve missed the playoffs, with their physicality and expansive play to provide a real challenge.