The NSW Waratahs are expecting the same old game plan from the new-look Brumbies in their Super Rugby AU crunch match in Canberra on Saturday night.

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The Brumbies made a massive 16 changes to the squad that went down to Melbourne before the bye, but Waratahs skipper Rob Simmons says they are expecting their opponents to still play to their strengths.

With four teams still in contention for three finals spots, the Waratahs have the Brumbies’ top spot in sight, but need to win a third successive match which is something they’ve struggled to do since June-July 2018.

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“It’s something we haven’t done this year; we haven’t done for a long time – win three in a row,” Simmons said on Friday.

“It’s going to be important to get this win and it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be physical but we’re looking forward to it.”

The Brumbies have brought in experienced locks Murray Douglas and Caderyn Neville and stacked their bench with brawn and brains, including Wallabies halfback Nic White in his first outing.

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They have left out Test players, including centre Tevita Kuridrani and Joe Powell.

Simmons felt the changes included some “smart moves” after the Waratahs won the set-piece battle in round three, although going down 24-23.

“There’s some quality players that they’ve brought in – that’s the beauty of the Brumbies in that they’ve got good depth,” he said.

“If they get that penalty we know they’re going to the line and we’re going to be under a lot of pressure from that maul.

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“They’ll stick to their strengths – you’d be silly to go away from them so I expect more of the same.”

The Waratahs made a late change Friday with inside centre Karmichael Hunt ruled out with a hamstring injury, with Joey Walton moving to 12 and Lalakai Foketi at outside centre.

Australian sevens star Nick Malouf comes on to the bench in what could be his Waratahs debut.

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa expects NSW to lift as they tried to knock off the frontrunners before the finals.

He said his team was always a target for their interstate rivals.

“When you’re top of the table you always have a target on your back,” Alalaatoa said.

“I don’t think our set piece has been consistent and it’s been a work-on for us but it’s definitely improved since the last time we played.

“The side they’ve (Waratahs) picked definitely looks to disrupt our scrum and set piece which isn’t surprising so that’s the way we’ve prepared this week.”

– Melissa Woods

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