Rob Simmons has been named to play his first game since November last year when the Queensland Reds take on the Bulls in South Africa on Sunday morning (AEST).
One of six changes to the starting side that fell to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend, Simmons has overcome a shoulder nerve injury and replaces James Horwill, who has been left at home for the two-week tour of South Africa following his one-match ban for striking.
The dual losses of flyhalf Quade Cooper (fractured shoulder blade) and winger James O’Connor (calf) have also prompted a backline reshuffle with Lachie Turner shifted out wide, Karmichael Hunt to start at fullback and Nick Frisby handed the poisoned chalice that is Queensland’s No.10 jersey.
With Cooper set to be sidelined for up to eight weeks, coach Richard Graham has backed the often-maligned Frisby – a natural halfback who will take over from France-bound Will Genia next season – to handle the playmaking duties in his absence.
“It’s unfortunate we lose Quade a game and a half into his season,” Graham said.
“But that’s been the nature of things this year, particularly around that 10 jersey.
“Nick Frisby’s played well there in the opportunities he’s got for us and certainly I think the balance of the backline with him at 10 and Karmichael at 15 will be very good for the team.”
O’Connor pulled up sore after the flight to South Africa with his calf complaint the recurrence of a previous injury.
However, he is expected to be back for next weekend’s clash with the Cheetahs.
Hunt made his first appearance for the Reds since his six-week suspension for cocaine charges coming off the bench against the Rebels.
In the forwards, the loss of Jake Schatz to a month-long elbow tendon injury sees Kiwi Adam Thomson moved to No.8 and Curtis Browning brought in to play blindside flanker.
Saia Fainga’a also returns to the starting side to replace James Hanson at hooker.
The Reds are last in the Australian conference with their very faint hopes of a run at the finals extinguished with their latest spate of injuries.
However, Graham said they were looking forward to the challenge that awaits at Loftus Versfeld, where no Australian team has won a regular season Super Rugby game since 2007.
“That is a piece of history that the group would love to contest,” Graham said.
“We need to continue working collectively and the rewards will come.
“The squad has trained well in the early stages of the week, the intensity has been very good.
“We need to continue that as we get closer to the game.”
Queensland Reds: Karmichael Hunt, Lachie Turner, Samu Kerevi, Anthony Fainga’a, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Adam Thomson, Liam Gill, Curtis Browning, Rob Simmons, Dave McDuling, Greg Holmes, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Sef Faagase, Marco Kotze, Tom Murday, Adam Korczyk, Ben Tapuai, Chris Kuridrani.