The Brumbies will be hoping the return of David Pocock and a new-look front-row will give their pack the lift they need to bounce back from a heavy loss to the Crusaders.
Stephen Larkham’s side face a tough assignment against Super Rugby champions the Highlanders in Invercargill on Saturday after last weekend copping a 40-14 hiding at home – their biggest-ever loss at GIO Stadium – to New Zealand’s other south island franchise.
While co-captain Stephen Moore (calf) and winger Joe Tomane (knee) have been forced out with injury, a number of other players have been rotated out – including Wallabies props Scott Sio and Ben Alexander.
Sio, Alexander and Rory Arnold were on Thursday named on the bench, with Ruan Smith, Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Staniforth all earning a spot in the run-on side.
It’ll be Smith and Staniforth’s first start of 2016.
Josh Mann-Rea replaces Moore at hooker, while Nigel Ah Wong comes in for Tomane on the wing.
Superstar Pocock returns from a two-match suspension, shifting his replacement Jarrad Butler to No.8.
They’ve now lost two of their past three matches and have dropped to second in the Australian conference behind the Melbourne Rebels.
Larkham said it just “feels right” to ring in the changes in the middle of a run of five games.
“We sort of targeted this game as an opportunity for guys to swap,” Larkham told Fairfax Media.
“It just felt right for the team to get a bit of an injection from these guys who have been playing extremely well from the bench.
“The standard won’t slip, we’ve been trying to get some more game time for guys on the bench and some of the opportunity has come about through injury but it is deserved.”
Moore had been hoping to making the trip to New Zealand but failed to recover from a serious cork to his calf muscle suffered against the Crusaders.
Tomane has been ruled out for up to eight weeks with medial ligament damage to his right knee, which he picked up in that same match.
The Brumbies have a healthy record against the Highlanders, winning seven of their last eight matches and three of their last four in New Zealand.
Brumbies: Aidan Toua, Nigel Ah Wong, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Robbie Coleman, Christian Lealiifano (c), Tomas Cubelli, Jarrad Butler, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Tom Staniforth, Ruan Smith, Josh Mann-Rea, Allan Alaalatoa. Reserves: Robbie Abel, Scott Sio, Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Rory Arnold, Blake Enever, Jordan Smiler, Joe Powell, James Dargaville.