Injured ACT Brumbies star David Pocock has been locked in an altitude room and flogged in fitness work at two kilometres above sea level to help the former Wallabies captain end his injury woes.
Pocock and the Brumbies' rehabilitation group have been pushed to the physical limits, gasping for air and reaching for buckets to vomit in as they use a facility which the club hopes will give them an edge over every Super Rugby rival.
The Brumbies are using the University of Canberra's research institute for sport and exercise altitude chamber, simulating high altitude and combining it with humidity and high temperature to add an extra edge to fitness work.
The club will consider using the room at their $16 million facility to get every player acclimatised for a two-game tour of South Africa later this season.
But for now Pocock and a handful of injured Brumbies are the test dummies as the put extra stress on their bodies to ensure their fitness doesn't fall behind the rest of the pack when they return to the field.
Pocock is still at least one more week away from recovering from an ankle syndesmosis problem, which halted his return from two knee reconstructions after just one game.
The former Wallabies captain, who looms as a key piece to Australia's World Cup hopes, has been working so hard he threw up after a rowing session with Auelua.
"I saw Poey reach for the bin and then [Brumbies rehabilitation coach Ben Serpell] handed me one and I missed it altogether," Auelua said.
"It's something different, you basically sweat as soon as you walk in. I really enjoy it and it helps that you've got a guy like Poey and Benny right with us. It's not easy.
"It's hard to breathe once you start working. You're in there for an hour and as soon as you walk out you feel all this oxygen pump back into your body. Just standing and throwing a punch is taking a lot of energy out of you."
The Brumbies hope the room will give them an extra advantage for games in South Africa, putting players through rowing, boxing, bike riding and running sessions in the unique environment.
The Brumbies play the Western Force at Canberra Stadium on Friday night as they continue their season-defining month against Australian opponents.
But off the field Serpell has been working Brumbies players at 2200 metres above sea level in 30 degree heat and 50 per cent humidity in brutal sessions which have had players gasping for breath.
Serpell worked with AIS senior physiologist David Pyne and UC's research institute for sport and exercise to devise a plan to train Brumbies players at altitude.
While some AFL and NRL clubs have to travel to the United States for altitude camps, the Brumbies only have to walk out of their office and open the door to a room which could change their training program.
Canberra is 583 metres above sea level, but when the Brumbies travel to South Africa they play in draining conditions where the air is thinner in Johannesburg (1753 metres), Pretoria (1339 metres) and Bloemfontein (1400 metres).
It could prompt the Brumbies into becoming the first Super Rugby team to use a $500,000 facility, jointly funded by the AIS and university, before travelling to South Africa.
"It's essential taking what they would normally do in the gym and adding an extra 10 per cent or so of effort [because they're doing it at altitude]," Serpell said.
"It depends how they cope with the heat and what height we're working at. It increases the training stress and physiological load takes the mechanical load off.
"The heart rate goes up but the effort going through the joints decreases. Having heat as well as altitude is the key, that's what makes the UC RISE facility unique.
"Once you get to a certain stage it can improve the rate to return to play without having to catch up with fitness gains.
"Even the AIS don't combine heat with altitude [at their altitude house]. Even the AFL clubs don't do it like that. Collingwood have a facility and St Kilda have a smaller one, but this is something the Brumbies and anyone in Canberra can tap into.
"If it fits in the rugby program before South Africa, it could allow guys to adapt to the climate before they get there."