Brumbies welcome back a number of familiar faces for this weekend’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Ita Vaea and Robbie Coleman will both start the match in place of the injured Jarrad Butler (knee) and Henry Speight (frontal bone).
Vaea returns to the starting side for the first time since the Brumbies round two win over the Waratahs at GIO Stadium. In that match, Vaea suffered a serious finger injury, which sidelined the backrower for the 31-11 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town last Saturday.
Coleman gets his first start of the season on the wing in place of the injured Speight. After missing the first two matches of the season due to a leg injury picked up in pre-season, Coleman was a late inclusion on the bench for the round three match against the Force in Perth and was also named as a replacement in the loss to the Stormers.
In other changes to the team for the Cheetahs match, Robbie Abel has been named on the bench and could make his Super Rugby debut.
The hooker, who spent the past two seasons with the Western Force Extended Playing Squad, linked with the Brumbies on an EPS contract for 2016 and is in line to make his debut, following the one-week suspension to Josh Mann-Rea.
The 26-year old is a former Brumbies Academy player and was a standout junior in the ACT, playing for renowned Rugby nursery St Edmunds College and forcing his way into the Australian Schoolboys side in 2008. He represented the UC Vikings in the 2015 National Rugby Championship, scoring two tries.
Ruan Smith has been named as a reserve for his first Super Rugby match of 2016.
Smith spent the off-season playing in Japan with Toyota Verblitz before returning to the Brumbies in February. He has been in camp with the Brumbies in South Africa for the past two weeks and replaces Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin in the match day squad. Leulua’iali’i-Makin has played in all matches for the Brumbies this season after making his Super Rugby debut against the Hurricanes in round one.
Jordan Smiler, who started last week’s match against the Stormers at number eight, returns to the bench, while James Dargaville comes in as a useful replacement for Speight. Dargaville scored one try in his rookie season for the Brumbies in 2015 and will take Coleman’s position on the bench with the Queanbeyan-product promoted to the starting side.
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong
Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 15:05 local (13:05 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos