Waratahs prop Tom Robertson could be back playing Super Rugby in a matter of weeks, coach Daryl Gibson says.
Robertson has spent just shy of seven months on the sideline after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament during a Wallabies training session in Argentina last year.
Rookie props Harry Johnson-Holmes, Rory O'Connor and Chris Talakai have stepped up in place of Robertson but the Test front rower's absence has been sorely missed.
The front rower has been back in training with NSW in recent weeks and Gibson said he was aiming for a Shute Shield return while the Waratahs tour Africa.
If all goes well, the 24-year-old could be back in the frame for Super Rugby when the Waratahs take on the Reds in Brisbane.
"He's not far away at all. he's looking to play some club footy next week for Sydney Uni, so that's a welcome return for him," he said.
"He'll have two weekends while we're away in Africa playing club footy and then hopefully we can pick him for Super Rugby."
Robertson's looming return would be a major boon for the Waratahs, whose Wallaby forwards have played plenty of minutes this season.
Captain Michael Hooper and Jack Dempsey are the only forward who have been rotated for one game this year but both will likely need to sit out another game while a number of others in the pack are yet to miss any matches.
Tighthead prop Sekope Kepu has played every match this season but will be required to be rotated out of at least one but most likely two matches in the season under the Wallabies' World Cup rotation policy.
"Given the equation, I think we'v egot six rotations to get through in the next seven games," Gibson said.
"Part of our search for consistency is around trying to put out a really consistent side.
"So for us, at the moment, we're trying to do that without tinkering too much. That's been a real balance for us, making sure we're getting our rotations right and not changing too much."
Tolu Latu's suspension has counted towards his tally, with the hooker able to focus on his fitness during his ban, while Ned Hanigan's injury absence will fulfil his quota.
The Waratahs face the Sharks at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday April 27, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.