Brumbies ring the changes, eye Super Rugby top-two spot

The ACT Brumbies are determined to keep their foot on the pedal as they speed towards a coveted Super Rugby Pacific home semi-final.

After a physically taxing win over the Hurricanes last time out, coach Stephen Larkham has named six fresh faces in his starting XV to face the inconsistent Fijian Drua on Saturday night.

Despite the changes, the former Wallaby denies the third-placed Brumbies are easing off the accelerator with five rounds to go before finals.

“There’s certainly a plan around trying to protect some of the players through the next five games,” Larkham said.

Bad memories from last season still haunt Larkham, when losses to the Crusaders and the Western Force cruelled the Brumbies’ chances of a top-two finish.

“You don’t get a home semi-final, which is really difficult to deal with when you have to play … a New Zealand team over in New Zealand,” he said.

“We’re certainly conscious of trying to rotate the squad, making sure everyone is nice and fresh at the back end of the season, but only a few changes each week.”

Last week’s 27-19 triumph over the league leaders came at a cost, with injuries to winger Corey Toole (foot) and bench prop Blake Schoupp (shoulder).

But the side will be buoyed by returning Wallabies forwards Tom Hooper and Allan Alaalatoa.

Alaalatoa will captain the Brumbies for the first time this year after playing 40 minutes against the Hurricanes – his first appearance since breaking his achilles against the All Blacks in July.

He will be partnered in the front row by Canberra local Connal McInerney, who makes his first start of the season.

Nick Frost, Jahrome Brown, Harrison Goddard and Andy Muirhead have also been brought into the starting line-up at the expense of Darcy Swain, Caderyn Neville and Charlie Cale.

“We certainly want to put our best team out there, and we feel with the injuries we had coming out of the game, and the fact those guys couldn’t train fully on Tuesday, it’s better for our preparation to make sure we get guys out there who can train correctly,” Larkham said.