Randwick halfback Mitch Short looks set to be thrown into the Waratahs' matchday 23 for round one, with Nick Phipps to miss up to the first three weeks of the season.
Phipps suffered a calf injury in training last week and it was hoped he would return for round one, but Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said on Thursday night that his comeback would likely be further down the track.
“We had some news around his calf that it may be a little bit longer than what we first thought,” he said.
“The scan didn't pick up the full extent of how serious it was, so he could be a little bit more delayed.
“He'll be targeting next week, the competitor he is.
“We’re probably two-to-three weeks away with Nick, realistically.”
The news means that Short will almost definitely be a part of the Waratahs’ round one side, with Phipps and Jake Gordon the only contracted scrumhalves in the NSW squad.
Gibson said he was confident Short, who made his Super Rugby debut when contracted as injury cover with the Force last year, would be able to step up to the task.
“We always knew we were taking a risk in only having two full-time halfbacks in the squad,” he said.
“Mitch has been with us in the preseason, so I'm confident he'll do a job.”
Phipps is one of a number of injury worries for the Waratahs heading into round one, with hooker Damien Fitzpatrick also being monitored closely after lasting just four minutes of Thursday’s trial.
Fitzpatrick, who was shaping up as the Waratahs starting hooker for the first round, suffered a PCL injury, with the severity unknown at this stage.
While Gibson wasn’t getting carried away with the margin, that they restricted the Rebels to just one try was especially pleasing for the Waratahs coach, epitomised by a moment when the game was already sealed.
“There was a passage of play that showed we'd made real progress - the Rebels winger made a big break, Mack Mason chased him down, our entire team was back, hard ball, back on the ruck and then scoring at the other end,” he said.
“For me, I'm really proud of our effort because it's something we've been talking about all year.
“To see that at that moment means there's progress there.”
While the result mightn’t have much weight, Gibson said it could be a timely lesson ahead of their season opener against the Stormers.
“I felt the game was very slow, I think the Africans will like playing at that pace,” he said.
“The message at half-time was to try and speed the game up, get some tempo into the game.
"It seemed to take an age to set a scrum tonight.
“At times, we wanted to go quick and it just seemed slow. We know next week we need to play faster and be physical.”
The Waratahs take on the Stormers on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.