Rebels’ Isi Naisarani the only debutant in Australia team to face Springboks
Rebels high-impact No8 Isi Naisarani is the only debutant in the Wallabies’ much revised team to play the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The starting side looks very different to the one that last played‚ while just 10 of the 23 who played against England at the end of 2018 included for Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika surprised somewhat by including Waratahs prop Harry Johnson-Holmes on the bench after the front ranker only arrived in the country on Wednesday night.
Another prop, James Slipper, returns to the side after a long absence, as does scrumhalf Nic White, who has been playing in Europe. White surprisingly cracks the nod ahead of the vastly experienced Will Genia but it is a selection that may give the Wallabies greater accuracy in their kick and chase game.
Even without the out-of-contract Israel Folau, the Wallabies will have a distinct height advantage in the back three.
Impressive Brumbies fullback Tom Banks has also earned a call-up, which means Kurtley Beale will start from the bench.
Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty will start on the wing.
Saturday’s midfield battle will be one of big collisions with the Wallabies pushing the powerful Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani into combat against Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel.
Although utility back James O’Connor has a new contract, he was deemed surplus to requirements this weekend.
Up front the Wallabies have opted for the sheer size and combativeness of Rory Arnold and Izaak Rodda in the second row.
They have a lot of experience on the bench with lock Rob Simmons (94 Tests)‚ scrumhalf Genia (100) and utility back Beale (83) occupying spots on the timber.
“This is an opportunity for our team‚” said Cheika about his team’s prospects. “We really want to begin building momentum to take us towards our goals in 2019‚” he said.
“The players are impatient to play at Ellis Park where our Wallabies haven’t had an opportunity to play for quite a while.
“We know we go into the game as heavy underdogs but most of the players have had a touch over three great weeks of training to prepare‚ so really they just can’t wait to get out and get into the battle.”
Wallabies — Tom Banks; Dane Haylett-Petty‚ Tevita Kuridrani‚ Samu Kerevi‚ Reece Hodge; Bernard Foley‚ Nic White; Isi Naisarani‚ Michael Hooper (captain)‚ Lukhan Salakaia-Loto; Rory Arnold‚ Izack Rodda; Sekope Kepu‚ Folau Fainga’a‚ James Slipper.
Replacements: Jordan Uelese‚ Harry Johnson-Holmes‚ Taniela Tupou‚ Rob Simmons‚ Jack Dempsey; Will Genia‚ Matt To’omua‚ Kurtley Beale.