Super Rugby trials are supposed to be about fearless attack and unearthing stars, but the versatility of a veteran might be the ACT Brumbies' biggest shining light.
The Brumbies demolished the Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Thursday night, blowing their rivals away in the second half to cruise to a 45-14 win.
The game exposed rookies Noah Lolesio and Bayley Kuenzle to a new level as they jostle for the right to replace Christian Lealiifano in the No. 10 jersey. NRL convert Solomone Kata left a path of destruction and Andy Muirhead showed his class with a double.
But it was James Slipper who caught the eye in the second half, making a front-row switch after 122 games playing predominantly as a loosehead prop.
The move could give the Brumbies another scrum weapon and coach Dan McKellar a new way to use his trio of Wallabies bookends.
The Brumbies' set piece, which has been the cornerstone of their game for so many years, fired in the pre-season match. Admittedly the Rebels were undermanned at scrumtime, but even so Slipper's change caught McKellar's eye.
"He's a very good loosehead prop and if he played enough on the tighthead side, he'd be a very good tighthead. He's just a smart footballer," McKellar said.
"We have a chuckle about it ... he's a team man and just wins. His preference is definitely loose. But it surprised me, to be honest, how well he picked it up."
Slipper's versatility came as Lolesio and Kuenzle showed they were capable of stepping up to Super Rugby level.
Lolesio got through 60 minutes of work and looked solid, admitting he'll learn better game management if he gets a shot in round one.
Kuenzle came on in the second half and showed superb timing to set up Muirhead's second try in a play directly from Lealiifano's playbook.
"I definitely want to stamp my name as that No. 1 No. 10 starting role, hopefully I did enough to prove to the coaches I'm eligible for it," Lolesio said.
"I felt very comfortable, it helps so much when I've got great players inside and outside."
The Brumbies and Rebels were locked in an arm wrestle for the first 50 minutes, with scores locked at 14-all before gaps started to appear.
The Rebels wrapped some of their Wallabies stars in cotton wool, putting their cue in the rack early after scoring a brilliant offloading try in the first half.
The Brumbies decided to up the tempo despite being without their Wallabies, with players pushing their names forward for selection.
Muirhead and Kata will be hard to deny, but there is plenty of competition for a spot on the wing with Toni Pulu, Tom Wright and Mack Hansen putting in solid efforts.
Darcy Swain and Murray Douglas looked strong as the second-row combination, with Caderyn Neville scoring from the bench in his Brumbies debut.
Pete Samu survived a scare when he played on after injuring his shoulder, but Rob Valetini will be assessed in the coming days after landing awkwardly.
The Brumbies will play the Queensland Reds in round one next week, determined to start their season on a winning note at home.
"We'll keep pretty grounded, it was a trial game. It was pleasing, we came through unscathed and got some good minutes into boys," McKellar said.
"I thought we defended really well, we just tried to play too much football in our end and got tired.
"I thought Noah was good, controlled the game well. But he'll learn from that first 20-minute period."
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 45 (Andy Muirhead 2, Murray Douglas, Scott Sio, Toni Pulu, Caderyn Neville, tries; Noah Lolesio 2, Ryan Lonergan 2, Bayley Kuenzle conversions) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 14 (Marika Koroibete, Asaeli Tikoirotuma tries; Reece Hodge, Andrew Deegan conversion) at Greenfield Park, Albury.