Deep end … Ben Volavola will face Dan Carter. Photo: Chrisopher Lane
THE WARATAHS have called up versatile former Rebels back James Hilgendorf as cover at five-eighth for their clash with the Crusaders in Sydney on Thursday.
Coach Michael Cheika on Tuesday confirmed Bernard Foley and Test centre Rob Horne had joined Berrick Barnes on the injured list before the side's final trial match, leaving Super Rugby debutant Ben Volavola to oppose veteran All Black Dan Carter at Allianz Stadium.
Cheika backed the Southern Districts youngster but said bringing in Hilgendorf, who has played in Japan and with the Force, was about taking the pressure off the Waratahs' last remaining five-eighth.
''[It is] just to give [Volavola] a bit of back-up,'' Cheika said. ''I've been really happy with what he's been doing. For a guy who's first come on the scene, he'll be so excited about going out to match up against a guy like Dan Carter and it's up to the rest of the team to make sure he can challenge one of the best players in the world.''
Hilgendorf has been back at Sydney club Eastwood since returning from Melbourne last year and is in the running to claim the last Waratahs squad spot vacated by the injured Sam Lane.
Cheika said he was hoping Foley would be ready for the Waratahs' first regular-season clash with the Reds in Brisbane next weekend but Horne would be out for a month with a hamstring strain.
There was also doubt over winger Drew Mitchell, who could be rested from Thursday's game to recover from a calf niggle.
''The [injuries] are a bit troubling because they're all in that position around No.10, No.12, No.13, but sometimes circumstances push [others] to the surface,'' he said. ''Ben Volavola is going to get a good chance to take the lead in the race for that No.10 jersey … he's a very natural, instinctive player, he's still getting his head around being the main playmaker … but the way he's responded, considering his age and experience, has been surprisingly good.''
With Horne and Barnes out, debutant Michael Hodge and Tom Carter stand to inherit midfield spots, with utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper also an option.
Cheika said he was happy to be throwing in the deep end the likes of Hodge, Volavola and Israel Folau.
''At this stage I'm not too worried about [the first game] next week.
''We'll just see what comes of Thursday's game, see who plays well and who doesn't and try to pick a team for the first game from there,'' he said.
''You build a squad, you back guys and then you've got to back them through [to playing].''