The NSW Waratahs have suffered a huge blow with five-eighth Bernard Foley expected to miss up to a month of Super Rugby due to a shoulder injury.
Wallabies star Foley was injured making a tackle in Friday night’s 40-35 trial loss to the Highlanders in Queenstown and is tipped to be sidelined for three to four weeks of the season which kicks off next week.
Both teams scored five tries apiece, with All Blacks midfielder Malakai Fekitoa running in three for the home team.
NSW coach Daryl Gibson gave a number of Waratahs newcomers the chance to stake their claim for the season ahead.
Lock Sam Lousi, formerly of the Warriors in the NRL, was one who shone, while former All Black Zac Guildford made the most of his opportunities with a try in the second half.
The performances of some of the younger players have given Gibson some selection headaches ahead of the Waratahs’ opener at home to Queensland next weekend.
“That’s the whole point of trials in my mind, you’ve got to see if your new guys are up to playing against quality opposition,” Gibson said.
“The more they play, the more you can trust them when you call on them later in the season.”
Fullback Israel Folau made his return from ankle surgery after the Rugby World Cup without incident, as the Waratahs will return home winless from their New Zealand tour after losing 17-12 to the Chiefs in Rotorua last week.
Nonetheless, Gibson was still satisfied with his team’s pre-season progress, happy with the smooth transition from his predecessor, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Working under Cheika as an assistant coach for three years prior to taking the reins this season had been a real advantage, Gibson said, adding that there’d been no real changes in gameplan.
“You’ve got to use the ball, and use positive ball in hand,” he said.
“I think what we’ve tried to do is introduce a bit more to our game as people learn about us. You’ve got to consistently keep ahead of defences and what you see in them.”