Jordan Uelese. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MICHAEL DODGE
Jordan Uelese. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MICHAEL DODGE

So highly was hooking prodigy Jordan Uelese regarded in the Australian rugby set-up that the then 20-year-old was handed a Test debut after just 28 minutes of Super Rugby in 2017.

It was thought Uelese would be Australia’s answer to Malcolm Marx in the hooker position but an anterior cruciate ligament injury has cruelly robbed him of the opportunity to add to his two Test caps.

He injured his knee while playing for the Melbourne Rebels in the 2018 Super Rugby campaign but has recovered and was playing well enough to be included in the Wallabies touring squad for Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

Uelese‚ however‚ is unlikely to start and will have to fight his way into the match 23 ahead of either Folau Faiinga or Tolu Latu.

Faiinga has had a solid Super Rugby campaign‚ while Latu hit the headlines for not bringing a drunk driving charge to the attention of the Waratahs.

What makes Uelese a formidable adversary in the Marx mould is the force he carries in the collision. His ball-handling and running skills bring an extra dimension to his role in the front row but there is a sense he has to prove himself all over again should he crack the nod this weekend.

“It has obviously been a long time since I played in these colours‚” said Uelese. “We have really connected and building really well for what is going to be a tough couple of weeks‚ but it is something we prepared well for.

“I’m grateful for being in this position again. I didn’t think I’d be back in, so it is not something I take for granted‚” said Uelese.

He says he is more matured from the player who had his first taste of Test rugby two years ago. Extended time on the sidelines has given him the opportunity to hone some of his skills.

“A major thing I needed to work on was my throwing‚” he said. “It was probably holding me back a bit. Having those 11 months off gave me chance to strip back and work on my body and my skills.

“As a hooker you have to be good at the set piece. I’ve worked hard with Geoff Parling [lock] down at the Rebels, as well as Mick Byrne [skills coach], to help me with my throwing.”

Uelese does not need reminding of the environment he is likely to enter if he makes it on to the playing surface at Ellis Park.

“Coming here playing at altitude at Ellis Park‚ it is going to be pretty hostile‚” he said.

“It is going to be tough. They come with a lot of brute. They play with a lot of force. But that is what we live for. That is the reason we play Test footie‚ for games like these. It is a challenge we have been building towards the past few weeks.”