Johannesburg - Australia is ill-equipped in player depth to field a fifth team with local players in an expanded Super competition, according to Waratahs coach Chris Hickey.
After the Waratahs were bundled out of the Super 14 semi-finals, Hickey said a fifth Australian team would not have the depth to match competition standards, and that the drain on the existing player pool would diminish the qualities of the four existing sides.
"I think a fifth team will really stretch us to the absolute limit, particularly if you are going to increase the competition to 22 rounds," Hickey said.
"If they [the Australian Rugby Union] wish to introduce a fifth team, it may need to be more of an Australasian team than an Australian team."
However, Hickey agreed that a team of Australian and New Zealand players could also include Pacific Islanders.
"That would enable us to put together a fifth team that would be competitive without damaging the four current sides," Hickey said. "There is no point having a fifth team if you diminish the strength of the other four teams."
Hickey also believed there should be no cause for concern after all the Australian sides failed to make the finals. The Waratahs placed fifth on 41 points, while the Brumbies were seventh on 38. The Force were eighth on 36 and the Reds were 13th on 19.
"The Waratahs, Brumbies and Force were all strong contenders for the semi-finals series right up to the final round," Hickey said. "And the Reds, while they didn't finish high on the table, managed to defeat the Sharks, [Blues and Cheetahs].
"I don't think that is indicative of the strength of Australian rugby compared to New Zealand or South Africa. I would feel that once the Wallabies assemble, they will do very well in the Tri Nations."
There are two injuries concerns from the Waratahs camp that could compromise selection for the Australian representative season to come.
Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu must undergo scans on his left hand that sustained a second fracture against the Sharks two weeks and forced him to leave the field against the Lions.
Another concern is centre Rob Horne's hamstring strain, which has not yet fully healed.
Horne, who did not play a game in South Africa for NSW, is still two weeks away from full fitness.
He has been picked for the Australian under-20s squad for this year's under-20s World Cup.
"His hamstring continues to be a problem. He may need a couple of more weeks before he is fit to play," Hickey said.
"I think he'll be able to take his place in the squad. They don't leave for a fortnight."
The third injury to come from the Waratahs' 38-33 win over the Lions was that of winger Peter Playford, whose hamstring tear in the first half could rule out him out of club rugby for several weeks.