Brumbies coach Dan McKellar admits he’s been frustrated by the ongoing absence of David Pocock after the equally exasperated flanker was again ruled out of the team to meet the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday.
And the sight of Pocock in the stands for a fifth straight week with a calf injury has been compounded for the Brumbies by the loss of in-form no.8 Locky McCaffrey, who has picked up a knee injury and may be in doubt for the following week too.
Kiwi back row recruit Jahrome Brown has been promoted for a starting debut at no.7 in an otherwise unchanged starting side from the one that downed the Lions last weekend. Peter Samu will move to no.8 and Peter Cusack swaps to blindside flanker.
Pocock hasn’t played since March 8 after aggravating a calf injury he first picked up in a Wallabies camp in January.
McKellar told RUGBY.com.au that his star no.7 was always unlikely to play against the Stormers and would instead be in line for a return next week against the Jaguares in Argentina.
McKellar said there had been a fair degree of frustration in the last month for both coach and player.
"It all started back in January at the Wallabies camp and hasn’t stopped really,” McKellar said.
"If I had have been told, when I was originally told it was a calf strain in January, that it would be still dragging on in the back end of April, you’d certainly be frustrated.
"He’s been frustrated, as much as anyone. He works hard on his rehab and wants to contribute to the team. He still certainly had a really good contribution but he wants to be able to have a contribution on the field and hasn’t been able to do that this year.
"But there is still a long way to go and it’ll be nice to have him back for the second part of the season.
"We have to make sure if we throw him back into a game situation that he is prepared and ready to perform. And not just play, so the last thing we want him to do is have another set back.”
The absence of Pocock has been off-set somewhat by the excellent form of 29-year-old veteran backrower McCaffrey.
But a knock to his knee at training was enough to rule McCaffrey out of the Stormers’ clash, and probably next week as well, admitted McKellar.
"He’s a really important part of our team Locky,” McKellar said.
"He’s a very good leader, he leads through his actions and last week had a hand in just about all of the tries. He plays physical and is having a good season. It is a small set-back but hopefully it is not multiple weeks.”
Brown arrived in Canberra from Waikato over summer looking for an opportunity, and injuries to Ben Hyne, Rob Valetini and Pocock provided one.
"He has got his opportunity at Super Rugby level and has performed well,” McKellar said.
"He’s just in the game you know? He is that typical openside flanker who is in and around the ball, gets through lots of defence and has nice touches in attack. It’s a good opportunity for Jahrome, up against the Springbok captain (Siya Kolisi).”
McKellar said the Brumbies would have to be smart in their attack against a dangerous Stormers team, who dispatched Melbourne at home last round, and match their strength in the set-pieces and in defence.
Murray Douglas and Wharenui Hawera have been added to the bench.
BRUMBIES v Stormers
1. Scott Sio
2. Folau Faingaa
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Rory Arnold
5. Sam Carter
6. Pete Samu
7. Tom Cusack
8. Jahrome brown
9. Joe Powell
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Toni Pulu
12. Tom Wright
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Tom Banks
16. Josh Mann-rea
17. James Slipper
18. Les Makin
19. Darcy Swain
20. Murray Douglas
21. Matt Lucas
22. Wharenui Hawera
23. Andy Muirhead