The Waratahs will host the Reds, Crusaders and Rebels next door at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but chose to take their other four matches away from their traditional eastern suburbs home.
In addition to Saturday’s Brookvale move, they play the Sunwolves at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle in round seven and then settle in at Western Sydney Stadium for the Sharks in round 11, the Jaguares in round 15 and the Brumbies in round 17 for their last regular season fixture at home.
The Waratahs will be looking for a better outing at Brookvale than their last there, when they were beaten by New Zealand conference wooden spooners the Blues to add to Australia’s miserable Super Rugby record against Kiwi opponents. It eventually ended, at 40 consecutive games across three seasons, when NSW beat the Highlanders in round 14 at Allianz.
The Hurricanes will be without All Blacks five-eighth Beauden Barrett, who is using one of two designated Test rest weeks to take his honeymoon. Coach John Plumtree also has injury headaches after an attritional trial match against New Zealand rivals the Blues on Saturday.
Props Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and Alex Fidow, as well as loose forward Gareth Evans, picked up injuries in their 38-31 loss to the Auckland side, while Stuff.co.nz also reported that prop Toby Smith was a late withdrawal from the contest and second-rower Sam Lousi had not played in any of the trials.
«The big worry for us is a couple of injuries that we’ve got now going forward, probably three or four more than I would like at this time of year, so that’s disappointing after going through a really good pre-season to lose some key guys at this time,» Plumtree said.
The Waratahs are not without their own concerns, particularly in the front row. Young prop Shambeckler Vui required scans on a foot injury he suffered in Goulburn last week, while Tom Robertson is also unavailable. Wallaby Sekope Kepu will be available for selection and the Waratahs may come to rely on him for longer than first envisaged.
Centre Lalakai Foketi, one of the team’s pre-season standouts, is also facing some time on the sidelines after doing his hamstring last week.
Gibson will welcome back all his Test players, including Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Tolu Latu and Kepu, as well as Jack Dempsey, Ned Hanigan and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who were the only three to play any trial minutes.
He said he did not expect the Rugby Australia-enforced rest to impact the team’s early season performances.
«All teams are similarly affected, the Hurricanes had a similar policy operating in New Zealand, so their international players will be equally affected by that,» Gibson said.
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.