Emerging youngsters Will Skelton and Alofa Alofa are putting selection pressure on more experienced NSW Waratahs teammates and coach Michael Cheika, heading into next week's opening Super Rugby clash with Western Force.
Twenty-one-year-old lock Skelton and evasive winger Alofa maintained their strong pre-season form in the Waratahs 19-16 final trial win over the Highlanders in Newcastle on Friday.
With Wallabies lock Sitaleki Timani going to France, Skelton and new recruit and Springbok Jacques Potgieter are contending with Kane Douglas for the starting second-row spots against Force.
Potgieter impressed Cheika and his teammates with his contribution in his NSW debut off the bench.
Cheika said he would have no qualms about starting him against the Force, despite Potgieter having spent little time in the Waratahs' program following a stint in Japan.
He said 203cm Skelton, who has won six Super caps, was doing well and would definitely play a lot this year.
He said he had to decide how to use him early in the season and that the towering youngster had to learn to play a full game.
"He's made massive gains in the way he plays the game, so I'm really happy with the way he's gone," Cheika said.
Alofa, 22, who like Skelton moved to Australia as a boy after being born in Auckland, is vying with Peter Betham and Cam Crawford for the wing spots.
He followed up an eye-catching display against the Blues last week with some more nimble footwork against the Highlanders.
"At the start I would have been thinking (Alofa was) a longer (term) project, but he's putting form on the board that's making it hard for me not to have him in (the team)," Cheika said.
Cheika had Bernard Foley at five-eighth and Rob Horne at inside centre, for the first half against the Highlanders and put Kurtley Beale at inside centre for the entire second half.
Foley, Cheika and captain and flanker Dave Dennis identified the need to be more clinical in converting tryscoring opportunities after several chances went begging against the Highlanders.
Dennis who was taken off as a precautionary measure due to a calf issue, said his side had achieved a lot in their three trials, but could get a lot better.
"Just the basics the simple skills not pushing passes, holding onto the ball, (and) converting our line breaks," Dennis said.