Injuries have provided an obvious chance to try Israel Folau at outside centre and Kurtley Beale at fullback but the NSW Waratahs’ spluttering form may count against experimentation.
Running third in the Australian Super Rugby conference on 10 points, behind the Brumbies (17) and Melbourne Rebels (13) after two wins – both over last-placed Queensland – and two losses, the Waratahs have yet to gel consistently under new coach Daryl Gibson.
A loss to the Rebels at home at Allianz Stadium on Sunday would heap pressure on Gibson and his team.
Their task has been made tougher by two long-term injuries.
The Tahs emerged from Sunday’s ugly 15-13 win over the Reds in Brisbane with centre Rob Horne suffering a hand fracture which will sideline him for four to six weeks.
Also joining the casualty list is hooker Tolu Latu, whose hamstring injury will keep him out for six to eight weeks at at time when they are already without first-choice rake Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Horne’s injury could give Gibson an ideal opportunity to thrust fullback Folau into the No.13 jersey, shifting the incisive Kurtley Beale to fullback, where he has excelled for the Wallabies in the past, making room for impressive rookie David Horwitz at inside centre.
Gibson suggested during the pre-season he wanted to use Folau at outside centre and did give him a brief run there when Horne was injured in a game earlier in the season.
However Folau boosted his case to remain in his preferred fullback spot with a two-try performance against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.
And Gibson could well go with the more conservative option of using steady utility Matt Carraro at outside centre.
Third-choice hooker Hugh Roach, who has made most of his nine appearances off the bench, is now in line to start against the Rebels with an even less experienced player as backup.
Melbourne also have their share of injury issues heading into Saturday’s game.
Winger Tom English is definitely out of the game with a knee injury, while there is doubt over veteran centre Tamati Ellison (hamstring) and fullback Jonah Placid (shoulder).