A South Sydney connection is set to ignite a midfield battle in Wollongong as Irae Simone braces to face a former teammate he describes as an "animal".
Simone could go head to head with Rabbitohs premiership-winner Ben Te'o when the ACT Brumbies play the Japan Sunwolves as part of a historic Super Rugby double header on Friday.
The pair first crossed paths six years ago when Simone was an teenage South Sydney star trying to break into the NRL and Te'o was at the peak of his powers in rugby league.
Now they're set to collide if Te'o is recalled to a battered and bruised Sunwolves side, which is desperate to atone for back to back thumpings.
The clash will be a chance for Simone to show how far he's come since he teamed up with Te'o at the Auckland Nines as a rising rugby league playmaker, who scored 19 tries in 36 under-20s games.
"I was at Souths with him in 2014 and 2015 ... he was just an animal and still is," Simone grinned.
"He was a big unit then and he's a big unit now, so I know it's going to be a tough challenge for me.
"But I've also never come up against a big unit like that, who's a similar player to me but is bigger. I'm willing to take that challenge on.
"I've looked up to [Te'o] over the the years ... watched him play State of Origin and for Australia in rugby league and for England in rugby. He's going to be opposite me, but that's exciting and I'm ready."
Simone is finding his feet as the stable inside centre as the Brumbies' back line begins to fire.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
He'll have the help of fellow rugby league converts Solomone Kata and Tom Wright, who are two of the only players to have match experience in Wollongong.
Kata scored a double at the ground in the New Zealand Warriors' win against the St George Illawarra Dragons two years ago and Wright scored the only try of his NRL career at the same venue in the same year.
They'll be hoping the ground is a happy hunting ground again, especially after the Sunwolves conceded 126 points in the past two weeks.
"At the moment we're still improving and we're not changing our mindset this week," Simone said.
"We're preparing for the Sunwolves to turn up because we can't take them lightly. The last few weeks hasn't really shown what they can do. When they turn up, they're dangerous and that's what we have to be ready for because they can come out firing."
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar is set to tinker with his side after beating the Waikato Chiefs in their last start two weeks ago.
Ryan Lonergan is poised to to earn the starting scrumhalf role for the first time in his career, while Tom Cusack is also back in selection contention after recovering from a head knock.
Wright is available again after illness ruled him out of the win against the Chiefs, and James Slipper and Scott Sio could continue their two-game starting rotation.
"We've had to adjust all year, so the week is pretty much structured the same," Lonergan said. "I've been to Wollongong a couple of times but I've never been to the stadium. I'm really excited to play somewhere I never have played before."
The Sunwolves boast former Brumbies James Dargaville and Ben Hyne, who hasn't played in almost 18 months. A knee injury ended Hyne's stint in Canberra, but he could make his comeback as early as this weekend.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND SIX
Friday: Japan Sunwolves v ACT Brumbies at Wollongong, 2.45pm.