The Brumbies still have to rest Wallabies quartet Scott Sio, Folau Faingaa, Rory Arnold and Tevita Kurdrani as part of the new stand-down rule to ensure players are fit for the World Cup later this year.
Test prop Allan Alaalatoa is expected to return from a wrist injury but Pocock remains touch-and-go for the season-defining clash across the ditch.
Caputo, a former Brumbies player and assistant who is now coaching the Gungahlin Eagles, said Pocock would be a huge omission if ruled out against the Super Rugby ladder leaders.
“He’s world-class, when he’s on the field everyone knows what he brings to a side and how much better that side is. But when he’s not on the field you can’t measure that effect,” Caputo said.
“The opposition can just do things with more ease when the world’s best No. 7 isn’t out there, maybe that’s something the Brumbies underestimated this season.
“Tom Cusack and [Lachy] McCaffrey and Rob [Valetini] have all been good but they’re not like-for-like replacements with that physical presence and having a hard No. 7 consistently on the ball.
“Pocock’s absence has definitely had an effect but injuries are part and parcel of the game. You can’t do much about that but Aussie teams seem to be affected a lot more than Kiwi sides, the Crusaders especially, they lose one and it’s next man up.
“You want an environment where you’re not having to rely on the rockstars and David Pocock’s and the next man can step up and do the job…. actually making that happen is hard though.
“The rotation stuff with the Wallabies players has also probably been a little bit unsettling too. Not having a settled 15 and 23 every week is going to have an effect.”
Caputo believes a drought-breaking victory against the two-time reigning champions Crusaders will spark the Brumbies season into action.
“Consistency and confidence, when you’ve got it, is a powerful thing. But when you lose it, it’s hard to get back,” Caputo said.
“When you’re under pressure you need to go back to those things you identified in the preseason as being really important and make sure you’re holding yourself accountable to them.
“If the Brumbies can get a win over there, which is the hardest place to get a result, that would be a massive thing for their confidence and it would be the catalyst to make a charge and get their campaign back on track.
“You know what you’re going to get when you go to Christchurch, and being able to stay with them is key, you can’t let them get too far ahead.
“If you look at how they’ve won titles and big games in the past, they’re a team that doesn’t necessarily need to have the ball to create pressure.
“If you clock off for any period in attack and defence they punish you, that’s the challenge for the Brumbies – staying in the fight the whole time and not having those soft minutes will be massive this week.”
The Brumbies had the bye last week and released players for the opening round of the John I Dent Cup, with Caputo a major benefactor as his Eagles upset Tuggeranong.
“From a community rugby point of view, we’re grateful the Brumbies release those players on mass. All clubs benefit from the interests those guys generate within the local rugby scene,” Caputo said.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND EIGHT
Saturday: Canterbury Crusaders v ACT Brumbies at Christchurch Stadium, 3.15pm
Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times