Ben Alexander will make his run-on debut for the ACT Brumbies this weekend against the Johannesburg Lions at Ellis Park.
The Canberra Times reports that Brumbies coach Andy Friend will today name his team for the round six Super 14 clash and Alexander will be in the No1 jersey.
His place in the side comes at the expense of Nic Henderson.
Henderson will likely play off the bench although Friend said he would wait before deciding between Henderson, a loosehead back-up, or tighthead Salesi Ma’afu as the reserve prop.
Alexander will be joined by Guy Shepherdson as the starting front rowers.
Shepherdson has recovered from a viral infection which sidelined him for the Brumbies’ 21-11 win over the NSW Waratahs last weekend.
In other team changes Julian Salvi will replace injured captain Stephen Hoiles at No8, while Shawn Mackay has been called into the squad to make his debut for the club off the bench.
Friend remained undecided about a new skipper to replace Hoiles, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Either George Smith or Stirling Mortlock will take over the senior leadership mantle but the coach wanted to talk to both players before finalising his decision.
Friend said Alexander had given him little choice but to promote him into the starting team for Sunday morning’s match in Johannesburg.
Alexander, who was a shock selection in Robbie Deans’ Wallabies squad last year, has played 10 games for the Brumbies since making his debut last season. But all have come off the bench.
The loosehead prop has impressed Friend with his consistent performances for the Brumbies in the opening four games this year, prompting the coach to finally afford him his first Super 14 starting cap.
“Ben’s been getting better and better with every game and the impact he’s made to the team when he’s come on has been massive,” Friend said yesterday.
“He’s done so well in every aspect of his game. He’s been making runs with ball in hand, he makes great yardage and his leg drive is impeccable.
“He’s a very dominant player, a very personal player and his physicality is unquestionable, which is exactly what we’ll need against a big Lions pack this weekend.”
The Brumbies arrived in Johannesburg early yesterday morning Canberra time before bussing for one hour to Centurion, where they are staying for the first three nights of the tour.
They will not have their first training session until tomorrow.
Friend said Henderson had done nothing wrong to warrant his axing from the run-on team but believed Alexander was a better proposition to play the Lions.
“Hendo and Shep had been working their butts off in the pre-season and I believed they warranted their starting spots for the first month and they both played exceptionally well during that time,” the coach said.
“But Benny A’s fitness has developed and he’s ready for a starting spot now and he thoroughly deserves it.”
Friend hoped to make a decision on a back-up prop and captaincy duties for the Lions match before the captain’s run on Friday.
“At this stage it will be Hendo but we just need to discuss further what we’d do if Shep got injured because Salesi is a tighthead and could cover him whereas Hendo is more a loosehead,” he said.
Brumbies team: 15. Mark Gerrard, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Stirling Mortlock, 12. Tyrone Smith, 11. Francis Fainifo, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Josh Holmes, 8. Julian Salvi, 7. George Smith, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Ben Hand, 3. Guy Shepherdson, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander.
Reserves: Huia Edmonds, Nic Henderson/Salesi Ma’afu, Sitaleki Timani, Shawn Mackay, Patrick Phibbs, Matt Toomua, Clyde Rathbone.Tweet