PERTH - As one Australian rugby representative celebrated the unlikeliest of debuts at Subiaco Oval on Saturday night, another was contemplating his future in the game.

Rookie Brumby Adam Ashley-Cooper was thinking about a meat pie more than rugby when coach Eddie Jones told him to kit up and get on to the bench with Elton Flatley suffering vision problems just 10 minutes before the Tri-Nations test against South Africa.

The utility back, 21, got the run-on he never expected in the dying minutes while Flatley was left to ponder retirement following a series of head knocks over the past two years.

First five-eighths Flatley, who sat out a chunk of this year's Super 12 because of concussion, will visit a Melbourne specialist this week to see whether Saturday night's incident was a related condition.

He received a knock during a warm-up drill just before the match and immediately realised he would have to withdraw from the already injury-ravaged team.

He sat disconsolately in the changing room, watching much of the loss by himself.

"I've worked very hard to get back here and be part of the Wallabies team again and to have that happen and to not be able to get on the field is gut wrenching," Flatley said.

"But I made the right call, there's no doubt about that."

Flatley did not mention the word retirement but it must loom large after he admitted considering it several months ago after his last concussion.

"Obviously, I've had a couple of head knocks so there's no getting around that [but] it's a different sort of injury for me," he said.

Jones said he had never seen a player so despondent before a game but the key issue now was Flatley's long-term health.

The five-eighths' misery could not have been in starker contrast to Ashley-Cooper's jubilation. After being called into the squad last Thursday night, he was not expecting a game after Jones opted for a fifth forward on the bench.

That all changed when Flatley's predicament became apparent.

"For me it was chaos trying to get everything together and everyone's having a little word trying to calm me down but I had to just take it all in and just relax and get out there and warm up," Ashley-Cooper said of his introduction to test rugby.

"A lot of things were running through my head last night. I was actually thinking 'I've only played three Super 12 matches and here I am on the bench for the Wallabies'."

Ashley-Cooper, a nephew of former Brumby Graeme Bond, who also made his test debut against South Africa, in Perth in 2001, had only his boots with him and was forced to wear a jersey with no number.

Not surprisingly, his brief time on the field was just a blur.

"It was pretty fast and I just wished I held on to the ball," he said.

Jones was pleased with the former Australian under-21 player's brief foray into international rugby.

"Seriously, he was going to start tucking into his pie and he gets a phone call that he is on the bench for Australia," Jones said.

"He's a good young player ... he's got the potential do be a very strong running outside centre cum winger."