Sydney - Openside flank David Pocock has returned from suspension for the Brumbies for their pivotal clash against the Highlanders in Invercargill on Saturday, though they will be without captain Stephen Moore with a calf injury.
Both the Brumbies and last year's champions have stuttered with their performances in recent weeks, with the Canberra-based side being hammered by both the Chiefs and Crusaders at home.
The Highlanders have also lost their last two games against sides below them on the points table and are desperate to show they have not hit the wall in the pursuit of a second successive title.
Pocock missed two games after he was handed a three-week suspension for a dangerous neck grab against the Chiefs, a bye-week completed the ban, but was named by Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham on Thursday for the clash at Rugby Park in Invercargill.
"Obviously he's one of the best players in the world and to have him come back this week coming off a two-week break he'll be fresh and ready to rip in," Brumbies lock Sam Carter told the team's website (www.brumbies.com.au).
"I love playing with him so its going to be good having him out there again, just the experience he brings."
Moore, however, will miss the game after he suffered a calf strain in his side's 40-14 loss to the Crusaders last Sunday and has been replaced by Josh Mann-Rea in the No 2 jersey.
Larkham will also be without top try-scorer Joe Tomane, who was ruled out for up to eight weeks with a torn knee ligament on Wednesday and is a doubt for the Wallabies' international series against England in June.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph was also forced to reshuffle his side after centre Jason Emery was suspended for four weeks after being sent off against the Sharks last week for a dangerous charge on a leaping Willie le Roux.
Rob Thompson will replace Emery at inside centre, while hooker Ash Dixon replaces the injured Liam Coltman, who tore ligaments in his toe in an incident that Joseph felt should have been investigated further.
"We're really disappointed about that. In our view it was a neck roll that was missed. His foot was trapped and he's torn ligaments in his toe," Joseph told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
"It wasn't warranted serious enough as dangerous play (by the SANZAAR judiciary), but the result for us is he's got a broken toe (and) he's going to be out for at least a month to two. It could be season-ending."
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Jack
Wilson, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10
Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie
(co-captain), 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh
Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Greg
Pleasants-Tate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Joe
Wheeler, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Matt
15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah
Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10
Christians Leali'ifano (captain), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7
David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Ruan
Smith, 2 John Mann-Rea, 1 Allan Alaalatoa
Substitutes: 16 Robbie
Abel, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Rory Arnold, 20
Blake Enever, 21 Jordan Smiler, 22 Joe Powell, 23 James Dargaville