The ACT Brumbies’ best Super Rugby season in more than a decade has been dealt a blow with Wallabies prop James Slipper unlikely to feature in their upcoming quarter-final.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham hoped Slipper would be back from a calf injury for a potential semi-final in two-and-a-half weeks, but there is only an “outside chance” the experienced forward could recover for the side’s home clash on June 8.

“Two to three (weeks) is the rough plan that we put together, so a fairly aggressive plan ahead to try and get him back,” Larkham said.

Slipper’s extensive experience will be sorely missed by the Brumbies in their final-round clash with the Western Force in Perth on Saturday.

James Slipper. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

He became the most-capped Australian in Super Rugby history earlier this season with his appearance against the Melbourne Rebels last time out his 183rd in the competition.

But the 34-year-old failed to see out the first half of the Brumbies’ 53-17 victory, hobbling off with soreness in his upper calf.

“He’s one of our mainstay forwards and brings a lot of leadership to the group. He has been playing exceptionally well,” Larkham said.

Slipper’s injury brought back bad memories for Larkham, who was without fellow front-rower Allan Alaalatoa with a similar issue for extended periods of 2023.

“There is a lot of pressure that goes through front-rowers’ calves,” he said.

“Allan went through an arduous rehab program to get back into the position he’s in right now. It’s certainly not as bad as Allan’s, but we’re hoping that we can get a quick turnaround on it.

“It’s a really tricky position to be in. A front-rower with a calf injury is something that’s very tricky to rehab.”

Strength in depth has been key to the third-placed Brumbies’ success this year.

Larkham can call on yet another Wallaby prop in the form of Blake Schoupp to fill Slippers’ shoes, as the 26-year-old makes a fortuitously timed return from a shoulder injury.

“He’s back into the fray this weekend so a great opportunity for him to get a bit of form before we get into finals,” Larkham said.

The Brumbies still have a shot of finishing the competition atop the ladder, depending on results elsewhere.

Even if they fail to beat the Force their 11 wins and two losses so far already seals their best regular-season return in two decades.

Regardless of where the Brumbies finish on the ladder after Saturday’s game, plenty of work lies ahead if they are to claim their first title since 2004.

“The way that we play this weekend will impact the way that we’re playing next weekend,” Larkham said.

“Whether we need to win or don’t need to win any of those distractions are not front and centre of the players’ minds. They’re thinking about how they can perform best.”

© AAP





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